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Alexander Solzhenitsyn 

with Mikhail Agursk ’ 1 

i ■ , r rJ rHt vn tw ee I 

Evgeny Barabanov Vadim B 
F. Korsakov and Igor Shafdrevicri 

From Under 
the Rubble 



by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mikhail Agursky, 
A.B., Evgeny Barabanov, Vadim Borisov, 
F. Korsakov, and Igor Shafarevich 

Translated by A. M. Brock, Milada Haigh, 
Marita Sapiets, Hilary Sternberg, and 
Harry Willetts under the direction of 
Michael Scammell 

With an introduction by 
Max Hayward 



Copyright © 1974 by YMCA-Press, Paris. 

Translation Copyright © 1975 by Little, Brown and Company (Inc.) 

Copyright © 1981 by Regnery Gateway 

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any 
electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems 
without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote 
brief passages in a review. 

This edition reprinted by arrangement with Little, Brown and Company (Inc.) 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 
Iz pod glyb. English. 

From under the rubble / by Alexander Solzhenitsyn . . . [et al.] : 
translated by A.M. Brock . . . [et al.] under the direction of Michael 
Scammell ; with an introduction by Max Hayward, 
p. cm. 

Translation of: Iz pod glyb. 

Reprint. Originally published: Boston : Little, Brown, cl975. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-89526-890-6 (alk. paper) : $10.95 

1. Soviet Union — Social conditions — 1945- 2. Soviet Union — 

Politics and government — 1953- 3. Civilization, Modern — 1950- 
I. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isaevich, 1918- . II. Title. 

[HN523.5.I913 1989] 

947.085— dcl9 88-32673 


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This collection of eleven essays edited by Solzhenitsyn (who 
wrote three of the essays as well) opens with a brief foreword 
indicating that its purpose is to stir debate, after over half a 
century of enforced silence, on matters of fundamental prin- 
ciple concerning the present state of Russia. The intention is 
to suggest a diagnosis of the evils and difficulties that beset 
the country, and to point to possible long-range solutions, if 
only tentative ones. Although the issues are discussed pri- 
marily in Russian terms, the authors show themselves to be 
not uninformed about the outside world and fully conscious 
that the problems of the planet now override those of any one 
part of it. 

From Under the Rubble has a forerunner in prerevolu- 
tionary Russia, namely, a famous collection of articles by a 
group of prominent scholars, writers and thinkers which was 
published in 1909 under the title Landmarks (Vekhi). The 
contributors included the religious philosophers Nikolai Ber- 
dyayev, Sergei Bulgakov and Semyon Frank, the legal 
theorist B. A. Kistyakovsky, the literary critic M. Gershenzon, 
and the eminent economist, publicist and liberal politician 
Peter Struve. All of them had grown up in the climate of 
populist socialism and Marxism of the last decades of the 



nineteenth century, and had revolted against it, rejecting the 
whole ethos of the Russian radical intelligentsia of the 1860s, 
which had prepared the ground for it Berdyayev and Bulga- 
kov were ex-Marxists, and Struve had indeed drafted the 
manifesto of the Russian Social Democratic party at its found- 
ing congress in 1898. (By a nice irony, it is his grandson, 
Nikita Struve, who now publishes Solzhenitsyn’s work in 
Russian in Paris.) 

The contributors to Landmarks took a searching look at 
Russian society, and in particular at the intelligentsia, which 
they held responsible for Russia’s failure to find proper 
means of confronting the country’s multifarious problems. 
The main attack was against the narrowness of outlook and 
sectarianism that had led the majority of Russian intellectuals 
to seek solutions in an uncritical adaptation of the West Euro- 
pean enlightenment in its nineteenth-century forms of posi- 
tivism, atheist materialism, “scientific socialism,” and so on. 
The authors called for a return to traditional spiritual val- 
ues — which for most of them meant those enshrined in 
Christian teaching — as a necessary condition for a regenera- 
tion of the country’s intellectual, cultural and social life. All 
of them were united — as Gershenzon wrote in his preface to 
the volume — by their “recognition of the primacy both in 
theory and in practice of spiritual life over the outward forms 
of society, in the sense that the inner life of the individual 
. . . and not the self-sufficing elements of some political 
order is the only solid basis for every social structure.” 1 
Landmarks caused a tremendous stir at the time of its pub- 
lication, provoking outrage in the ranks of the intelligentsia. 
Lenin, for example, denounced it as “an encyclopedia of lib- 
eral apostasy.” The Bolsheviks’ seizure of power in October 
i9!7 was soon to overwhelm the authors of Landmarks and 

1. As quoted in Leonard Schapiro’s article on Landmarks: “The Vekhi 
Group and the Mystique of Revolution” in the Slavonic and East European 
Review, December 1955- For an excellent introduction to the wider context 
of the Russian nineteenth-century intellectual tradition, in which it is impor- 
tant to view both Landmarks and From Under the Rubble, see the same 
author’s Rationalism and Nationalism in Russian Nineteenth Century Politi- 
cal Thought, Yale University Press, 1967. 



everything they represented, but the volume remained influ- 
ential. Although it was under a strict ban in Soviet Russia, 
constant official attacks on it in the Stalin era — particularly 
during the cultural purges of 1947-1948 — served to keep its 
memory alive among Soviet intellectuals and even, through 
highly selective quotation, gave some idea of its contents. 

Before they were dispersed in emigration, the Landmarks 
authors, now joined by several others, managed to have 
printed in the Bolshevik-controlled Moscow of 19*8 a second 
volume of essays under the title De Profundis. In this they 
spoke of the year-old October revolution as the fulfillment of 
their forebodings in Landmarks about the inevitable conse- 
quences of the intelligentsia's thirst for revolution. As Ber- 
dyayev put it in his contribution, Russia had now been 
seized by evil spirits like those in Gogol's nightmarish tales, 
or by the “possessed” of Dostoyevsky's prophetic imagina- 
tion. It was not simply a change of regime, but a spiritual di- 
saster, a self-willed descent into the abyss. De Profundis was 
confiscated and banned almost immediately. Only two copies 
survived in the West and it was virtually unknown and unob- 
tainable until it was reprinted in Paris in 1967* This sequel to 
Landmarks must clearly have made a profound impression 
on Solzhenitsyn: the Russian title of From Under the Rubble 
( lz pod glyb) is a phonetic echo of the Russian words for De 
Profundis ( lz glubiny ). 2 

By modeling their collection of essays on Landmarks , Solz- 
henitsyn and his associates demonstrate their conviction that 
in order to talk meaningfully about present-day Russia it is 
essential to cross back over the intellectual void of the last 
sixty years and resume a tradition in Russian thought which 
is antithetical to the predominant one of the old revolu- 
tionary intelligentsia, particularly as it developed in the sec- 
ond half of the nineteenth century. 

The publication of this joint profession of faith by a great 
Russian writer now living in enforced exile, and a group of 

2. It is hard to give a precise rendering of the title in English. The implica- 
tion is of people speaking from beneath stone blocks or masses of earth or 
debris that have buried them alive — see Solzhenitsyn's foreword. 



intellectuals still inside the country — including one of its 
leading mathematicians — is an eloquent response to the re- 
cent tactics of the Soviet government in its efforts to stifle 
dissent. The indiscriminate use of prison and the madhouse, 
which is still by no means in abeyance, has been supplemen- 
ted by the ostensibly more subtle policy of selective banish- 
ment abroad. The hope evidently is that if some of the more 
powerful voices that speak “from under the rubble” are re- 
moved from the scene, those remaining behind will be de- 
moralized and eventually silenced. 

But the authors of From Under the Rubble demonstrate 
that the voices of dissent will not so easily be stilled. The 
central premise of the collection is that the problems of the 
modem world, Soviet as well as Western, can no longer be 
solved on the political plane. Instead, the quest for solutions 
must begin on the ethical level. Since their approach is spiri- 
tual in nature, the authors reject all forms of physical vio- 
lence and compulsion. Their goal is to bring about in Russia 
a moral revolution. As they see it, the political revolutionary 
has always said: “Let us go and kill our enemies and then ev- 
erything will be fine.” But as moral revolutionaries the au- 
thors are saying, in effect, “Let us put ourselves in danger. 
Perhaps we shall be killed. But as a result of our acts, there 
may be an improvement in the life of the nation.” 

The authors believe that new and better relations among 
people can only come about if they embrace a new life of 
repentance and self-restraint. This can happen among nations 
as well as among individuals, for the authors are convinced 
that the concept of the nation is not an anachronism, but that 
it still has a relevant intrinsic value. Their idea is perhaps 
best summed up by Solzhenitsyn himself. Upon the receipt 
of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, he wrote: “Nations 
are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities. The 
very least of them wears its own special colors and bears 
within itself a special facet of divine intention.” 



The universal suppression of thought leads not to its extinc- 
tion, but to distortion, ignorance and the mutual in- 
comprehension of compatriots and contemporaries. 

For many decades now not a single question, not a single 
major event in our life has been freely and comprehensively 
discussed, so that a true appreciation of it could be arrived at 
and solutions found. Everything was suppressed, everything 
was left to molder in unintelligible chaos, without thought 
for the past and consequently for the future either. Mean- 
while more and more events accumulated and piled up in 
such crushing heaps that neither inclination nor strength was 
left to try and sort them out. 

And now people are approaching from outside and, heed- 
lessly and irresponsibly, without let or hindrance, are making 
all sorts of arbitrary judgments about our recent history and 
the possibilities of our people. We start to protest and at once 
bog down in polemics, as a result of which we are in danger 
of missing the wood for the trees. For the voices destined to 
express what was known at the appropriate time fell prema- 
turely silent, the documents perished, and the gaze of the 
outside researcher cannot penetrate into those dark depths 
beneath the piles of unsorted rubbish. 



It is from out of those dank and dark depths, from under 
the rubble, that we are now putting forth our first feeble 
shoots. If we wait for history to present us with freedom and 
other precious gifts, we risk waiting in vain. History is 
us — and there is no alternative but to shoulder the burden 
of what we so passionately desire and bear it out of the 




Introduction v 


Foreword ix 


As Breathing and Consciousness Return 3 


Socialism in Our Past and Future 26 


Contemporary Socioeconomic Systems and 

Their Future Prospects 67 


Separation or Reconciliation? — The Nationalities 
Question in the USSR 88 




Repentance and Self-Limitation in the 

Life of Nations 105 


The Direction of Change 144 

A. B. 

Russian Destinies 151 


The Schism Between the Church and the World 17a 


Personality and National Awareness 194 


The Smatterers 229 


Does Russia Have a Future? 279 


Notes on Contributors 295 

Index 297 



As Breathing and Consciousness Return 


(Apropos of A. D. Sakharov’s treatise “ Reflections on Prog- 
ress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom .”) 1 

This article, written four years ago, was not issued as sa- 
mizdat, 2 but shown only to A. D. Sakharov himself. As samiz- 
dat it was needed more at that time than now, since it 
related directly to this well-known treatise. Since then Sa- 
kharov’s views and practical proposals have traveled a long 
way, so that today the article has very little relevance to 
him, and is not a polemic with him. 

“Therefore it’s too late,” I hear people objecting. If only it 
were. In half a century we have not succeeded in calling 
anything by its right name or thinking anything through, 
and fifty years from now we shall still be catching up. Be- 
cause all that has so far appeared in print is quite futile. 
Here, as elsewhere, such a time lag is a normal feature of 
Russian life since the revolution. 

But it is not too late because in our country a massive sec- 
tion of educated society is still stuck fast in the way of think- 

1. See Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual 
Freedom, trans. the New York Times (New York: Norton, 1968). — Trans. 

2. Samizdat is a recent Russian coinage meaning literally “self- 
publishing.” It refers to poems, essays, stories, articles, and so on, that are 
typed out and passed from hand to hand to evade the censorship. — Trans. 



ing which Sakharov has passed through and left behind. And 
it is not too late for another reason, namely, that several 
groups in the West apparently share the same hopes, illu- 
sions and delusions. 


The transition from free speech to enforced silence is no 
doubt painful. What torment for a living society, used to 
thinking for itself, to lose from some decreed date the right to 
express itself in print and in public, to bite back its words 
year in and year out, in friendly conversation and even under 
the family roof. 

But the way back, which our country will soon face — the 
return of breathing and consciousness, the transition from 
silence to free speech — will also prove difficult and slow, 
and just as painful, because of the gulf of utter incomprehen- 
sion which will suddenly yawn between fellow-countrymen, 
even those of the same generation and same place of origin, 
even members of the same close circle. 

For decades, while we were silent, our thoughts straggled 
in all possible and impossible directions, lost touch with 
each other, never learned to know each other, ceased to 
check and correct each other. While the stereotypes of 
required thought, or rather of dictated opinion, dinned into 
us daily from the electrified gullets of radio, endlessly repro- 
duced in thousands of newspapers as like as peas, condensed 
into weekly surveys for political study groups, have made 
mental cripples of us and left very few minds undamaged. 

Powerful and daring minds are now beginning to struggle 
upright, to fight their way out from under heaps of antiquated 
rubbish. But even they still bear all the cruel marks of the 
branding iron, they are still cramped by the shackles into 
which they were forced half-grown. And because we are in- 
tellectually isolated from each other, they have no one to 
measure themselves against. 

As for the rest of us, we have so shriveled in the decades of 



falsehood, thirsted so long in vain for the refreshing drops of 
truth, that as soon as they fell upon our feces we tremble with 
joy. “At lastl” we cry, and we forgive the dust-laden whirl- 
wind which has blown up with them, and the radioactive 
fallout which they conceal. We so rejoice in every little word 
of truth, so utterly suppressed until recent years, that we 
forgive those who first voice it for us all their near misses, all 
their inexactitudes, even a portion of error greater than the 
portion of truth, simply because “something at least, some- 
thing at last has been said!” 

All this we experienced as we read Academician Sa- 
kharov’s article and listened to comments on it at home and 
from abroad. Our hearts beat fester as we realized that at last 
someone had broken out of the deep, untroubled, cozy torpor 
in which Soviet scientists get on with their scientific work, 
are rewarded with a life of plenty and pay for it by keeping 
their thoughts at the level of their test tubes. It was a liberat- 
ing joy to realize that Western atomic scientists are not the 
only ones who feel pangs of conscience — that a conscience 
is awakening among our own scientists too. 

This in itself makes Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov’s fearless 
public statement an important event in modem Russian 

The work finds its way to our hearts above all because of 
the honesty of its judgments. Many events and phenomena 
are called by the names which we all use in the secrecy of 
our minds but are too cowardly to speak aloud. Stalin’s 
regime is numbered among the “demagogic, hypocritical, 
monstrously cruel police regimes”; we are told that in com- 
parison with Hitlerism, Stalinism “wore a much more cun- 
ning disguise of hypocrisy and demagogy” because it relied 
on “Socialist ideology as a convenient screen.” We are re- 
minded of the “predatory procurements” of agricultural pro- 
duce and the “reduction of the peasantry to a condition 
almost of serfdom.” 

True, all this is said of the past, but the present day is not 
forgotten. There is “great material inequality between town 
and country,” “40 percent of our country’s population finds 



itself in a very difficult economic situation” (the context hints 
at, demands the word “poverty” but when one’s own 
country is in question it sticks in the throat); whereas the 5 
percent in the “boss class” are as highly privileged as “the 
corresponding groups in the USA.” “No, more so!” we feel 
like retorting, but the author forestalls us with his explana- 
tions: the privileges of our country’s managerial group are 
secret, not open and aboveboard, it is a matter of purchasing 
loyal service to the existing system by bribes, previously in 
the form of “salaries in envelopes,” now by “closed distribu- 
tion of everything in short supply — foodstuffs, goods, and 
services — and privileged access to resorts.” Sakharov speaks 
out against the recent political trials, against the censorship, 
against the new unconstitutional laws. He points out that “a 
party using such methods of persuasion and education can 
hardly lay claim to the role of spiritual leader of mankind.” 
He protests against the subordination of the intelligentsia to 
party officials, ostensibly in defense of “the interests of the 
working class.” He demands that truth, not caste expediency, 
set the limits to the exposure of Stalinism; he rightly calls for 
“examination of the records of the NKVD by the whole na- 
tion, and a full amnesty for today’s political prisoners. And 
even in the most sacrosanct sphere, foreign policy, he lays on 
the USSR “indirect responsibility” for the Arab-Israeli 

However, this level of analysis, if not this level of bold- 
ness, is within the reach of other fellow-countrymen, though 
they are silent. But Sakharov, with the assurance of a great 
scientist, leads us upward to a loftier vantage point. With 
sharp taps of his lecturer’s pointer he reduces to fragments 
those idols, the economic myths of the twenties and thirties, 
which, lifeless as they are, have for half a century cast a spell 
during our school days which few can break even in old age. 
Sakharov shatters the Marxist myth that capitalism brings 
the productive forces to an impasse” or “always leads to the 
absolute impoverishment of the working class.” For the first 
time in our country Sakharov puts in proper perspective the 
competition of economic systems, unforgettably represented 



in a classroom poster by a socialist horse leaping over a capi- 
talist tortoise. 

Sakharov reminds us of the “burden of technical and orga- 
nizational risk, and of development costs, which rests on a 
country pioneering in technology,” and with great expertise 
lists important technological borrowings which have made 
the Soviet Union richer at the expense of the West. He re- 
minds us that “catching up” in traditional branches of in- 
dustry like iron and steel proves nothing, and that in the 
really decisive sectors we are consistently behind. Sakharov 
also destroys the myth of bloodsucking millionaires: they are 
“not too serious an economic burden” because there are so 
few of them, whereas “a revolution, which brings economic 
development to a standstill for more than five years, cannot 
be considered economically advantageous to the working 
classes.” (Why not simply call it fatal?) As for the USSR itselfj 
the myth that there is magic in socialist competition is laid 
low (“it plays no obvious economic role”) and we are re- 
minded that for all those decades “our people has worked at 
full stretch, which has led to a certain exhaustion of the na- 
tion’s resources.” 

True, this demolition of sacred idols is hard going, and 
Sakharov is at times unnecessarily lenient: he speaks only of 
“a certain exhaustion,” and says that “in the provision of 
high living standards . . . it is a drawn game between capi- 
talism and socialism.” (I hardly think so!) But the very act of 
crossing the forbidden line and daring to pronounce on mat- 
ters which no one except the Founding Fathers has ventured 
to touch takes our author a long way forward. If what we find 
under the capitalist system is not unrelieved decay but “the 
continued development of productive forces,” then “the so- 
cialist world must not destroy the soil from which it sprang,” 
for “this would be the suicide of mankind” by atomic war. 
(As our propagandists choose to see it, atomic war means not 
the suicide of mankind but the certain triumph of socialism.) 
Sakharov gives sounder advice: we should renounce our 
“empirical opportunistic foreign policy,” the “method of 
maximum discomfiture of opposing forces without regard to 



the general good and common interests.” The USSR and the 
United States should cease to be antagonists and go over to 
cooperation in giving the broadest disinterested aid to back- 
ward countries; and a system of international supervision to 
ensure respect for the Declaration of the Rights of Man 
should be one of their highest foreign policy aims. 

The author also rehearses the main dangers to our civiliza- 
tion, the warning signs that man’s habitat is threatened with 
destruction, and broadly poses the problem of saving it 

Such is the level of Sakharov’s noble article. 


But my purpose in writing this review is not to join in the 
chorus of praise: it is perhaps too loud already. I am alarmed 
by the likelihood that many of the fundamental ideas in Sa- 
kharov’s article, which are insufficiently thought out and at 
times clearly unsound, will merge with the swelling current 
of free Russian thought only to distort or hinder its de- 

Let us confess that we have set down here in exaggeratedly 
concentrated form all that seems best in Sakharov’s article. 
But these statements do not form a tightly organized, vigor- 
ous whole: they are thinly spaced, toned down, above all in- 
terspersed with others which contradict them and often 
belong to a lower level of argument. 

We see a conspicuous fault in the fact that the article lav- 
ishes attention on the internal problems of other coun- 
tries — Greece, Indonesia, Vietnam, the United States, 
China — while the internal situation in the USSR is exhib- 
ited in the most benevolent light, or rather, indulgently un- 
derlit. But here he is on very treacherous ground. We have 
the moral right to make judgments on international problems, 
and still more on the internal problems of other countries, 
only if we take cognizance of our own internal problems and 
do penance for our faults. We have no right to pass judgment 
on the “tragic events in Greece” until we have looked to see 



whether events at home are not still more tragic. Before cast- 
ing an eye on “attempts to conceal this cynicism and cruelty 
from the American people” we should take a good look 
around — is there nothing similar nearer home? Where they 
don’t just “try to conceal,” but are eminently successful? And 
if “the poverty of twenty-two million Negroes is tragic,” are 
not fifty million collective firm laborers still poorer? Nor 
should we fail to recognize that the “tragicomic forms of the 
personality cult” in China are merely a repetition, with slight 
changes (not always for the worse), of our malodorous 

This is a canker which has eaten into all of us. From the 
very beginning, however resoundingly the word “self- 
criticism” was pronounced, however boldly printed, it has 
always been criticism of the next man. For decades a belief 
in our socialist superiority was instilled into us, and we were 
permitted to sit in judgment only on others. So when we take 
it into our heads to talk about ourselves nowadays, an uncon- 
scious longing to extenuate our faults deflects our pens from 
the straight line of hard truth. It is no easy thing for us to ac- 
cept this return of free thought, to get used to it right away 
and at one gulp. We timidly feel that to mention aloud the 
defects of our social order and our country is a sin against pa- 

This discriminatory tolerance of “one’s own” and simulta- 
neous severity toward others shows through more than once 
in Sakharov’s work, and to begin with on the very first page: 
in the crucial stipulation that although the object of his work 
is to facilitate the rational coexistence of “world ideologies,” 
he does not “mean by this ideological peace with those fanat- 
ical, sectarian and extremist ideologies which admit no possi- 
bility of rapprochement, no discussion or compromise, as for 
instance the fascist, racist, militarist or Maoist ideologies.” 
And that is all. End of list. Period. 

What an insecure, jerry-built gateway to such an important 
work I This arch would collapse and crush us! True, he says 
“for instance,” indicating that the list of ideologies with 
which there can be no reconciliation is not full, but what 



strange modesty explains the omission of precisely that ideol- 
ogy which at the very dawn of the twentieth century declared 
all compromises to be “rotten” and “treacherous,” all discus- 
sions with the heterodox to be idle and dangerous twaddle, 
and proclaimed that in armed struggle and the division of the 
world into red and white, into those for us and those against 
us, lay the only solution of social problems. Since then that 
ideology has had enormous success, colored the whole twen- 
tieth century, struck a chill into three-quarters of the earth. 
Why then does Sakharov not mention it? Does he suppose 
that it can be talked round by gentle persuasion? If only it 
were sol But no one has yet seen anything of the sort: this 
ideology has not become the least bit less unyielding and in- 
transigent. Is it implicitly included in his obscure, deprecat- 
ing gesture, his impenetrable “for instance”? 

A paragraph later Sakharov mentions among the “extreme 
expressions of dogmatism and demagogy,” side by side with 
the same old racism and fascism — Stalinism. But this is a 
poor substitute. 

In the Soviet Union since 1956 there has been nothing par- 
ticularly bold, new or original in mentioning “Stalinism” as 
something bad. The sentiment is not officially acceptable, 
but it has spread far and wide among the public and is often 
uttered in conversation. In the thirties or forties to write 
down “Stalinism” in such a list would have been the act of a 
hero and a sage, for at the time “Stalinism” was embodied in 
a mighty, operative system, which had convincingly shown 
what it could do both at home and in Eastern Europe. But to 
invoke “Stalinism” in 1968 is sleight of hand, camouflage, 
evasion of the problem. 

We may justifiably wonder whether “Stalinism” is in fact a 
distinctive phenomenon. Did it ever exist? Stalin himself 
never tried to establish any distinctive doctrine (and given 
his intellectual limitations he could never have created one), 
nor any distinctive political system of his own. All Stalin’s 
present-day admirers, champions and professional mourners 
in our own country, as well as his followers in China, ada- 
mantly insist that he was a faithful Leninist and never in any 



matter of consequence diverged from Lenin. The author of 
these lines, who in his day landed in jail precisely because of 
his hatred of Stalin, whom he reproached with his departure 
from Lenin, must now admit that he cannot find, point to, or 
prove any substantial deviations. 

Was not the land given to the peasants during the revolu- 
tion only to be taken into state ownership soon afterward (the 
Land Code of 1922)? Were not the factories promised to the 
workers, but brought under central administration in a matter 
of weeks? When did the trade unions begin to serve not the 
masses but the state? Who used military force to crush the 
border nations (Transcaucasia, Central Asia, the Baltic 
States)? What of the concentration camps (1918-1921)? The 
summary executions by the Cheka? 8 The savage destruction 
and plundering of the Church (1922)? The bestial cruelties at 
Solovki 4 (1922)? None of this was Stalin — the dates, and his 
standing at the time, are against it (Sakharov recommends 
that “Leninist principles of public supervision of places of 
confinement” should be reestablished. He does not tell us 
which year’s principles, nor in which camps they were prac- 
ticed. The early camps around the Solovetsky monasteries — 
the only ones Lenin lived to see?) We credit Stalin with the 
bloody enforcement of collectivization, but the reprisals after 
the peasant risings in Tambov (1920-1921) and Siberia (1921) 
were no less harsh — the difference was only that they did 
not affect the whole country. Some people may mark up the 
artificially forced pace of industrialization and the strangu- 
lation of light industry to Stalin’s account, but this again was 
not his invention. 

Stalin did perhaps manifestly depart from Lenin in one re- 
spect (though he was only following the general law of revo- 
lutions): in the ruthless treatment of his own party, which 
began in 1924 and rose to a climax in 1937. Can this be the 
decisive difference, the distinguishing mark which tells our 

3. The Cheka was the original name of the Soviet secret police 
(1917-1922). — Trans. 

4. The popular name for the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea. Their 
monasteries served as a place of exile during the Middle Ages and after the 
revolution were turned into the first systematic Soviet labor camp. — Trans. 



present-day progressive historians that “Stalinism” belongs 
in the exclusive list of antihuman ideologies, whereas its ma- 
ternal ideology does not? 

“Stalinism” is a very convenient concept for those “puri- 
fied” Marxist circles of ours, who strive to differentiate them- 
selves from the official line, though in reality the difference 
is negligible (Roy Medvedev may be mentioned as a typical 
example of this trend.) For the same purpose the concept of 
“Stalinism” is still more important and necessary to Western 
Communist parties — they shift onto it the whole bloody bur- 
den of the past to make their present position easier. (In this 
category belong such Communist theorists as G. Lukacs and 
I. Deutscher.) It is no less necessary to those broad Left- 
liberal circles in the West which in Stalin’s lifetime ap- 
plauded highly colored pictures of Soviet life, and after the 
Twentieth Congress found themselves looking most pain- 
fully silly. 

But close study of our modem history shows that there 
never was any such thing as Stalinism, (either as a doctrine, 
or as a path of national life, or as a state system), and official 
circles in our country, as well as the Chinese leaders, have 
every right to insist on this. Stalin was a very consistent and 
faithful — if also very untalented — heir to the spirit of 
Lenin’s teaching. 

As breathing returns after our swoon, as a glimmer of con- 
sciousness breaks through the unrelieved darkness, it is dif- 
ficult for us at first to regain our clarity of vision, to pick our 
way among the clutter of hurdles, among the idols planted in 
our path. 

Some of them Sakharov robs of their magic and dissolves 
into dust with a touch of his blackboard pointer, but others 
he respectfully passes by and leaves standing in all their 

If we accept his reservation about all the “ideologies with 
which there can be no compromise” and rule them out (per- 
haps even extending the list), what are the ones with which 
Sakharov recommends coexistence? The liberal and Chris- 
tian ideologies? Even as things are they hold no threat to the 



world, they are engaged in continual dialogue. But what are 
we to do with his sinister list? Rather a lot of ideologies past 
and present are represented in it. 

What price then the convergence so eagerly awaited and 

And where are the guarantees that “ideologies with which 
there can be no compromise” will not spring up in the 

In the same work, after so soberly assessing the economic 
havoc wrought by revolutions, Sakharov envisages the “pos- 
sibility of decisive action” through “the struggle of revolu- 
tionary and national-liberation movements . . . when no 
other means than armed struggle remains. . . . There are sit- 
uations in which revolution is the only way out of an im- 
passe.” Here again, the author is not contradicting 
himself — he has merely contracted the squint characteristic 
of the age — viewing all revolutions with general approval, 
and unreservedly condemning all “counterrevolutions.” 
(Who, though, can calibrate a sequence of violent events, 
each the cause of its successor; who can determine the in- 
cubation period, before the end of which a violent upheaval 
is still to be called counterrevolution, but after which it be- 
comes revolution?) 

Incomplete liberation from modish dogmas imposed by 
others is always punished by intermittent failures of vision 
and overhasty formulations. Thus the Vietnamese war, in 
Sakharov’s account, is regarded by world progressive opinion 
as a war between the “forces of reaction” and “the will of the 
people.” When regular divisions arrive along the Ho Chi 
Minh trail — is that also “the people’s will”? Or when “regu- 
lar” partisans set fire to villages because of their neutrality 
and coerce a peaceful population with tommy guns — shall 
we put this down to “the people’s will” or “the forces of re- 
action”? How can we Russians, with experience of our own 
civil war, pass such superficial judgments on the war in Viet- 
nam? No, let us not wish either “revolution” or “counter- 
revolution” on our worst enemies. 

Once permit mass violence even in the most limited con- 



text and straightway the forces of “progress” and “reaction” 
will pour in to help; it will swell and sweep over a whole 
continent, and you will be lucky if it stops even at the brink 
of nuclear war. What is left then of the peaceful coexistence 
mentioned in Sakharov’s heading? 

The sacrosanct statues around which our author treads 
carefully include socialism — which is apparently so unre- 
servedly accepted by all that it is not mentioned in the title 
as a subject for discussion. In his exaltation of socialism Sa- 
kharov indeed oversteps the mark. As if it were something 
generally known and in no need of proof, he writes about the 
“high moral ideals of socialism,” “the ethical character of the 
socialist path,” and even calls this his main conclusion 
(though it would obviously be more accurately called his 
main pious wish). 

In no socialist doctrine, however, are moral demands seen 
as the essence of socialism — there is merely a promise that 
morality will fall like manna from heaven after the socializa- 
tion of property. Accordingly, nowhere on earth have we 
been shown ethical socialism in being (and indeed the jux- 
taposition of these two words, tentatively questioned by me 
in one of my books, has been severely condemned by respon- 
sible orators). In any case, how can we speak of ethical so- 
cialism, when we do not know whether what we are shown 
under that name is in feet socialism at all? Is it something 
that exists in nature? Sakharov assures us that socialism, “as 
no other social order could,” has “enhanced the moral signif- 
icance of labor,” and that “only socialism has raised labor to 
the peak of moral heroism.” But in the great expanses of our 
collectivized countryside, where people always and only 
lived by labor and had no other interest in life but labor, it is 
only under “socialism” that labor has become an accursed 
burden from which men flee. Let us add to this that through- 
out our broad country and along its roads the heaviest manual 
labor is performed by women, since the men moved onto 
machines or into administration. Then there is the annual 
mobilization of townspeople for compulsory seasonal labor. 
We might even add that millions of white-collar workers at 



their office desks find their labor galling and detestable. 
Without prolonging the list, I can say that I have met scarcely 
anyone in our country who looks forward to Monday more 
than to Saturday. And if you compare the quality of building 
today with the masonry of earlier ages — particularly that of 
the old churches — you will feel inclined to look for “moral 
heroism” somewhere in the past. 

Sakharov of course knows all this himself, and what he says 
is the result, not of personal errors of his, but of the general 
hypnosis of a whole generation, which cannot wake up 
abruptly, cannot at once shake off the cumulative effects of 
all those indoctrination sessions. That is why we read about 
the “socialist principle of remuneration according to quantity 
and quality of labor,” although the system has existed under 
the name of “piecework” since the beginning of time. On the 
other hand, when Sakharov sees anything bad in socialist 
reality — “dissimulation and specious growth ... at the cost 
of deterioration in quality” — he puts it down for some rea- 
son not to “socialism” but to “Stalinist pseudosocialism,” 
whatever that may be. “Some of the absurdities in our devel- 
opment were not an organic consequence of the socialist path 
but a kind of tragic accident” Where is the proof of that? In 
the newspapers? 

In this same hypnotic trance, Sakharov contemptuously ap- 
praises nationalism as a sort of peripheral nuisance, which 
hinders the glorious advance of mankind, but is doomed 
shortly to disappear. 

Ah, but what a tough nut it has proved for the millstones of 
internationalism to crack. In spite of Marxism, the twentieth 
century has revealed to us the inexhaustible strength and 
vitality of national feelings and impels us to think more 
deeply about this riddle: why is the nation a no less sharply 
defined and irreducible human entity than the individual? 
Does not national variety enrich mankind as faceting in- 
creases the value of a jewel? Should it be destroyed? And can 
it be destroyed? 

Underrating as he does the vitality of the national spirit, 
Sakharov also overlooks the possible existence of vital na- 



tional forces in Russia. This shows through quite comically in 
the passage where he enumerates the “progressive forces in 
our country” — and finds what? “The Left Leninist- 
Communists” and the “Left Westemizers.” Is that all? We 
should be spiritually poor indeed, we should be doomed, if 
Russia today consisted merely of such forces as these. 

The word progress also appears in the title of the article — 
meaning technical, economic and social progress in the com- 
mon traditional sense, and Sakharov leaves this too among 
the untouched and undethroned idols, although in an ad- 
jacent passage the drift of his own ecological arguments is 
that “progress” has brought mankind into dangers which to 
say the least are grave. In the social sphere, the author con- 
siders “the system of education under state control” a “very 
great achievement,” and expresses his “concern that a scien- 
tific method of directing . . . the arts has not yet been rea- 
lized in practice.” Speaking of purely scientific progress, 
Sakharov with some satisfaction outlines the following pros- 
pects: “Creation of an artificial superbrain,” “a resultant ca- 
pacity to control and direct all vital processes at the level of 
the individual organism . . . and of society as a whole . . . 
including psychological processes and heredity.” 

Such prospects come close to our idea of hell on earth, 
and there is much here to perplex us and provoke sharp pro- 
test, were it not that at a second perusal it becomes clear that 
the whole treatise is obviously not intended to be read for- 
mally, literally and with captious attention to detail, and that 
the essence of the treatise is not what is expressed on the sur- 
face, even when this is specially emphasized, not its political 
terminology and intellectual arguments, but the moral dis- 
quiet which informs it and the spiritual breadth of the au- 
thor’s proposals, even if they are not always accurately and 
successfully expounded. 

Similarly with the prospects for technological progress. 
Sakharov warns us — politicians, scientists, all of us — that 
“the greatest scientific foresight and caution, the greatest 
concern for universal human values” will be necessary. 



Clearly such an appeal is not a practical program: pleas to 
politicians to show the greatest care for universal human val- 
ues or to scientists to proceed cautiously with their discover- 
ies are like barriers of flimsy board around a pit-shaft — and 
the bottom is littered with others like them. In all the history 
of science, has scientific foresight ever saved us from any- 
thing? If it has, we normally know nothing of it. What hap- 
pened was that a lonely scientist burned his plans without 
showing them to anyone. 

Sakharov himself did not bum his plans in time. Perhaps 
this is what now gnaws at him, perhaps it is this pain that 
makes him come out into the marketplace and call upon man- 
kind at least to begin putting an end to evil, at least to stop 
short of new and worse disasters! 

He knows himself that caution is not enough, that “the 
greatest concern is not enough,” but he is not armed with his 
own terrible weapon, he holds out his weaponless hands to 
us in friendship, he is not so much our teacher as a humane 
spiritual adviser. 

Similarly, Sakharov’s hopes of convergence are not a well- 
grounded scientific theory, but a moral yearning to cloak 
man’s last, nuclear, sin, to avoid nuclear catastrophe. (If we 
are concerned with solving mankind’s moral problems, the 
prospect of convergence is a somewhat dismal one: if two 
societies, each afflicted with its own vices, gradually draw 
together and merge into one, what will they produce? A soci- 
ety immoral in the warp and the woof.) 

“Do not extend spheres of influence,” “do not create dif- 
ficulties for other countries,” let “all countries aim at mutual 
aid,” and let the great powers voluntarily hand over 20 per- 
cent of their national income — none of this is practical poli- 
tics, nor does it claim to be. These again are moral 
exhortations. The “prohibition of all privilege” inside our 
country is also a mere cry from the heart, and not a practical 
task for the “Left Communists” and “Left Westemizers” — 
for how could they build up the necessary coercive force? 
And can privilege in any case be eliminated by decree? 



In Russia such prohibitions, reinforced by powder and 
shot, have been known in the past, but privilege popped up 
again as soon as there was a change of bosses. Man’s whole 
outlook must be modified so that privilege ceases to be at- 
tractive and becomes morally repellent to its possessors — 
only then can it be eliminated. The elimination of privileges 
is a moral, not a political, task. Sakharov feels this himself 
this is his real view of the matter, but the language of ethical 
literature is lost to our generation, and so our author is forced 
to make shift with the inexpressive language of politics. He 
says of Stalinism, for instance, that “blood and mud have 
sullied our banner.” Now obviously our author’s concern is 
not for banners, and what he is trying to say here is: “They 
have sullied our souls and depraved every one of us I” 

The total inapplicability of our workaday language and 
concepts to the author’s profound moral unease can be seen 
in many passages in the treatise, and also in its title; what 
Sakharov feels most strongly about will not fit into it, and that 
is why it is so long and enumerative. 

Intellectual freedom also figures in the title. In it Sakharov 
sees the “key to the progressive reconstruction of the state 
system in the interests of mankind.” 

Certainly intellectual freedom in our country would imme- 
diately bring about a great transformation and help us to 
cleanse ourselves of many stains. Seen from the dark hole 
into which we are cast, that is so. But if we gaze into the far, 
far future — let us consider the West. The West has supped 
more than its fill of every kind of freedom, including intellec- 
tual freedom. And has this saved it? We see it today crawling 
on hands and knees, its will paralyzed, uneasy about the fu- 
ture, spiritually racked and dejected. Unlimited external free- 
dom in itself is quite inadequate to save us. Intellectual 
freedom is a very desirable gift, but, like any sort of freedom, 
a gift of conditional, not intrinsic, worth, only a means by 
which we can attain another and higher goal. 

In accordance with his demand for freedom, Sakharov pro- 
poses to introduce the multiparty system in “socialist” coun- 



tries. Obstruction to this of course comes entirely from the 
regime, not from the public. But let us for our part try to rise 
above Western conceptions to a loftier viewpoint. Do we not 
discern in the multiparty parliamentary system yet another 
idol, but this time one to which the whole world bows down? 
“Partia” means a part. Every party known to history has 
always defended the interests of this one part against — 
whom? Against the rest of the people. And in the struggle 
with other parties it disregards justice for its own advantage: 
the leader of the opposition (except perhaps in England) will 
never praise the government for any good it does — that 
would undermine the interests of the opposition; and the 
prime minister will never publicly and honestly admit his 
mistakes — that would undermine the position of the ruling 
party. If in an electoral campaign dishonest methods can be 
used secretly — why should they not be? And every party, to 
a greater or lesser degree, levels and crushes its members. As 
a result of all this a society in which political parties are ac- 
tive never rises in the moral scale. In the world today, we 
doubtfully advance toward a dimly glimpsed goal: can we 
not, we wonder, rise above the two-party or multiparty parlia- 
mentary system? Are there no extraparty or strictly nonparty 
paths of national development? 

It is interesting that Sakharov, while praising Western de- 
mocracy and enthusing about socialism, recommends for the 
future world society neither the one nor the other, but inad- 
vertently reveals that his dream is quite different: “a very in- 
tellectual . . . world leadership,” “world government,” 
which is obviously impossible either under democracy or 
under socialism, for given universal franchise, when and 
where would an intellectual elite be elected to govern? We 
have here quite a different principle — that of authoritarian 
rule. Whether such a government proved very bad or ex- 
cellent, the means of creating it, the principles of its forma- 
tion and operation, can have nothing in common with 
modem democracy. 

Here again, incidentally, Sakharov thinks and writes of his 



world rulers as an intellectual elite, but in the spirit of his 
work, in accordance with his general view of the world, he 
instinctively expects it to be a moral elite. 

We may be rebuked for criticizing Academician Sakharov’s 
useful article without apparently making any constructive 
suggestions of our own. 

If so, we shall consider these lines not a facile conclusion, 
but merely a convenient starting point for discussion. 


Having decided four years later to include this earlier ar- 
ticle in the present collection, I must enlarge on the thought 
with which it abruptly ended. 

Among Soviet people whose opinions do not conform to 
the official stereotype, there is a well-nigh general view that 
what our society needs, what it must aspire to and strive for, 
is freedom and the multiparty parliamentary system. The ad- 
herents of this view include all the supporters of socialism, 
but it is also more widely held than that. Indeed, it is so 
nearly unanimous that to challenge it (in unofficial circles, of 
course) looks downright indecent 

This almost perfect unanimity is an example of our tradi- 
tional passive imitation of the West: Russia can only recapitu- 
late, it is too great a strain to seek other paths. As Sergei 
Bulgakov® aptly remarked: “Westernism is spiritual surren- 
der to superior cultural strength.” 

The tradition is an old one, the tradition of the prerevolu- 
tionary Russian intelligentsia, who believed not casually and 
coolly, but with the zeal of martyrs, sometimes at the cost of 
sacrificing their lives, that their cause and that of the nation 
could only be (the people’s) freedom and (the people’s) hap- 

5. Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), a Marxist political economist who aban- 
doned Marxism and wrote his seminal work. From Marxism to Idealism, in 
1903. In 1923 he was expelled from the Soviet Union and ultimately settled 
in Paris, where he became one of the chief organizers of the Russian Student 
Christian Movement — Trans. 



piness. History knows how this worked out in practice. But 
leaving that aside, let us look more deeply into the slogan 

What was understood by “the people’s happiness ” does 
not concern us here. Basically, absence of poverty, material 
well-being (the contemporary official concept — uninter- 
rupted rise in the level of material existence — exactly coin- 
cides). It can, I think, nowadays be acknowledged without 
discussion that as the ultimate aim of several generations, to 
be paid for with the blood of millions, this is rather inade- 
quate. The spiritual vector of happiness was, it is true, re- 
membered by the Cadet® intelligentsia (and less often by 
socialist intellectuals), but very vaguely, because it was more 
difficult to imagine it on behalf of a people they understood 
so little: they meant, in the first place, needless to say, educa- 
tion (Western style), sometimes folk-dancing, even ritual, but 
never of course the reading of the Lives of the Saints or 
religious disputation. The general conviction was expressed 
by Korolenko: 7 “Man is made for happiness as a bird is made 
for flight.” This formula has also been adopted by our con- 
temporary propaganda: both man and society have as their 
aim “happiness.” 

Although the Cadets, to bring themselves closer to the peo- 
ple, called themselves the “People’s Freedom party,” the 
demand for “freedom” and the concept of “freedom” had not 
established themselves at all firmly among our people. The 
peasant masses longed for land and if this in a certain sense 
means freedom and wealth, in another (and more important) 
sense it means obligation, in yet another (and its highest) 
sense it means a mystical tie with the world and a feeling of 
personal worth. 

Can external freedom for its own sake be the goal of con- 
scious living beings? Or is it only a framework within which 
other and higher aims can be realized? We are creatures bom 

6. An abbreviated name for members of the prerevolutionary Constitutional 
Democratic party. — Trans. 

7. V. G. Korolenko (1853-1921), a talented prose writer and memoirist who 
initially supported the Populists; also a well-known philanthropist and 
champion of minorities, especially the Jews. — Trans. 



with inner freedom of will, freedom of choice — the most im- 
portant part of freedom is a gift to us at birth. External, or 
social, freedom is very desirable for the sake of undistorted 
growth, but it is no more than a condition, a medium, and to 
regard it as the object of our existence is nonsense. We can 
firmly assert our inner freedom even in external conditions of 
unfreedom. (Remember how Dostoyevsky ridicules the com- 
plaint that “our environment has destroyed us.”) In an unfree 
environment we do not lose the possibility of progress to- 
ward moral goals (that for instance of leaving this earth better 
men than our hereditary endowment has made us). The need 
to struggle against our surroundings rewards our efforts with 
greater inner success. 

There is, therefore, a miscalculation in the urgent pursuit 
of political freedom as the first and main thing: we should 
first have a clear idea of what to do with it. We were given 
this sort of freedom in 1971 (more of it from month to 
month) — and what did it mean to us? That every man was 
free to ride off with a rifle, wherever he thought fit. And to 
cut down telegraph wires for his own needs. 

The multiparty parliamentary system, which some among 
us consider the only true embodiment of freedom, has al- 
ready existed for centuries in some Western European coun- 
tries. But its dangerous, perhaps mortal defects have become 
more and more obvious in recent decades, when su- 
perpowers are rocked by party struggles with no ethical 
basis; when a tiny party can hold the balance between two 
big ones and over an extended period determine the fate of 
its own and even neighboring peoples; when unlimited free- 
dom of discussion can wreck a country’s resistance to some 
looming danger and lead to capitulation in wars not yet lost; 
when the historical democracies prove impotent, faced with a 
handful of sniveling terrorists. The Western democracies 
today are in a state of political crisis and spiritual confusion. 
Today, more than at any time in the past century, it ill be- 
comes us to see our country’s only way out in the Western 
parliamentary system. Especially since Russia’s readiness for 



such a system, which was very doubtful in 1917, can only 
have declined still further in the half century since. 

Let us note that in the long history of mankind there have 
not been so very many democratic republics, yet people 
lived for centuries without them and were not always worse 
off. They even experienced that “happiness” we are forever 
hearing about, which was sometimes called pastoral or patri- 
archal (and is not a mere literary invention). They preserved 
the physical health of the nation (obviously they did, since 
the nation did not die out). They preserved its moral health, 
too, which has left its imprint at least on folklore and pro- 
verbs — a level of moral health incomparably higher than 
that expressed today in simian radio music, pop songs and in- 
sulting advertisements: could a listener from outer space 
imagine that our planet had already known and left behind it 
Bach, Rembrandt and Dante? 

Many of these state systems were authoritarian, that is to 
say, based on subordination to forms of authority varying in 
origin and quality. (We understand the term in the broadest 
possible way, taking in everything from power based on un- 
questionable authority, to authority based on unquestionable 
power.) Russia too existed for many centuries under various 
forms of authoritarian rule, Russia too preserved itself and its 
health, did not experience episodes of self-destruction like 
those of the twentieth century, and for ten centuries millions 
of our peasant forebears died feeling that their lives had not 
been too unbearable. If such systems have functioned for 
centuries on end in many states, we are entitled to believe 
that, provided certain limits are not exceeded, they too can 
offer people a tolerable life, as much as any democratic re- 
public can. 

Together with their virtues of stability, continuity, immu- 
nity from political ague, there are, needless to say, great 
dangers and defects in authoritarian systems of government: 
the danger of dishonest authorities, upheld by violence, the 
danger of arbitrary decisions and the difficulty of correcting 
them, the danger of sliding into tyranny. But authoritarian 



regimes as such are not frightening — only those which are 
answerable to no one and nothing. The autocrats of earlier, 
religious ages, though their power was ostensibly unlimited, 
felt themselves responsible before God and their own con- 
sciences. The autocrats of our own time are dangerous pre- 
cisely because it is difficult to find higher values which 
would bind them. 

It would be more correct to say that in relation to the true 
ends of human beings here on earth (and these cannot be 
equated with the aims of the animal world, which amount to 
no more than unhindered existence) the state structure is of 
secondary significance. That this is so, Christ himself teaches 
us. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” — not because 
every Caesar deserves it, but because Caesar’s concern is not 
with the most important thing in our lives. 

If Russia for centuries was used to living under autocratic 
systems and suffered total collapse under the democratic sys- 
tem which lasted eight months in 1917, perhaps — I am only 
asking, not making an assertion — perhaps we should recog- 
nize that the evolution of our country from one form of au- 
thoritarianism to another would be the most natural, the 
smoothest, the least painful path of development for it to 
follow? It may be objected that neither the path ahead, nor 
still less the new system at the end of it, can be seen. But for 
that matter we have never been shown any realistic path of 
transition from our present system to a democratic republic of 
the Western type. And the first-mentioned transition seems 
more feasible in that it requires a smaller expenditure of 
energy by the people. 

The state system which exists in our country is terrible not 
because it is undemocratic, authoritarian, based on physical 
constraint — a man can live in such conditions without harm 
to his spiritual essence. 

Our present system is unique in world history, because 
over and above its physical and economic constraints, it de- 
mands of us total surrender of our souls, continuous and ac- 
tive participation in the general, conscious lie. To this 
putrefaction of the soul, this spiritual enslavement, human 



beings who wish to be human cannot consent When Caesar, 
having exacted what is Caesar’s, demands still more insis- 
tently that we render unto him what is God’s — that is a sac- 
rifice we dare not make! 

The most important part of our freedom, inner freedom, is 
always subject to our will. If we surrender it to corruption, 
we do not deserve to be called human. 

But let us note that if the absolutely essential task is not 
political liberation, but the liberation of our souls from partic- 
ipation in the lie forced upon us, then it requires no physical, 
revolutionary, social, organizational measures, no meetings, 
strikes, trade unions — things fearful for us even to con- 
template and from which we quite naturally allow circum- 
stances to dissuade us. No! It requires from each individual a 
moral step within his power — no more than that. And no 
one who voluntarily runs with the hounds of falsehood, or 
props it up, will ever be able to justify himself to the living, 
or to posterity, or to his friends, or to his children. 

We have no one to blame but ourselves, and therefore all 
our anonymous philippics and programs and explanations are 
not worth a farthing. If mud and dung cling to any of us it is 
of his own free will, and no man’s mud is made any the less 
black by the mud of his neighbors. 

1969-October 1973 


Socialism in Our Past and Future 


This article summarizes the authors longer work on the 
same topic. To that work we refer the reader who may wish 
to acquaint himself in greater detail with the facts and argu- 
ments which support his conclusions . 1 


Every generation is liable to make the mistake of exagger- 
ating the significance of its own era, believing itself destined 
to witness a key turning point in history. In feet, radical 
changes involving the basic principles of human life happen 
once in five hundred or more years. But they do happen, as 
did the decline of antiquity and the break with the Middle 
Ages. And some generations are fated to live at those times. 

It can hardly be doubted that our era is a turning point. In 
many of its basic activities mankind has come up against the 
feet that further movement along the paths followed hitherto 
is impossible and leads into a blind alley. This is true in the 

l. The Socialist Phenomenon, trans. William Tjalsma (New York: Harper & Row, 
1980). This work had not been published, either in the Soviet Union or abroad, 
when the present collection was first published, in 1974, and was thought at the 
time to be known only to the author and perhaps a few friends. The work was 
published in Russian in France under the title Sotsializm kak iavlenie mxrovoi istorii in 
1975 by YMCA Press. 



spiritual sphere, in the organization of society, and in the 
sphere of industrial production (because of the inconsistency 
of the idea of a constantly expanding industrial society). The 
generations that come immediately after us must choose new 
paths and thus determine history for many centuries to come. 
For this reason, problems that appear to be insoluble stand 
out with painful clarity, and the dangers which threaten us 
yawn blackly ahead. Possible ways out can be seen only 
dimly, and the voices which speak about them are diffident 
and contradictory. 

There exists, however, one voice which is untinged by 
doubts or obscurity; there exists a doctrine which points con- 
fidently to the future of mankind — socialism. At present it is 
divided into countless currents, each claiming to be the sole 
exponent of socialism and considering the others to be pseu- 
dosocialist. If we eschew such narrow partisanship and exam- 
ine which countries are headed by governments that have 
proclaimed socialism as their aim, we shall see that the 
greater part of mankind in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin 
America has already started to move in that direction. And in 
the rest of the world socialist parties are contending for 
power and socialist teachings prevail among young people. 
Socialism has become such a force that even the most promi- 
nent politicians are obliged to curry favor with it and the 
most weighty philosophers to make obeisances to it. 

All the evidence is that man has very little time left to 
decide for or against a socialist future. Yet this decision can 
determine his fate for the rest of time. Accordingly, one of 
the most urgent questions of our time is what is socialism? 
What is its origin? What forces does it use? What are the 
causes of its success? Where is it taking us? 

We can judge how far our understanding of the matter has 
progressed simply by the number of contradictory answers 
that are given to any one of these questions by representatives 
of the various socialist movements. To avoid a multiplicity of 
examples we shall adduce just a few opinions concerning the 
origin of socialism. 

“When feudalism was overturned and ‘free’ capitalist soci- 



ety appeared it was immediately discovered that this free- 
dom denoted a new way of oppressing and exploiting the 
workers. Various socialist movements at once came into 
being as a reflection of this tyranny and a protest against it” 
(V. I. Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Components of 

. . African societies have always lived by an empirical, 
natural socialism, which can be termed instinctive” (the 
ideologist of “African socialism,” Dudu Tiam). 

“Socialism is a part of the religion of Islam and has been 
closely linked with the character of its people ever since that 
people existed as nomadic pagans” (the ideologist of “Arab 
socialism,” al-Afghani). 

What kind of peculiar phenomenon is this, that it can 
evoke such different judgments? Is it a collection of uncon- 
nected movements which for some incomprehensible reason 
insist on sharing one name? Or do they really have some- 
thing in common beneath their external variety? 

The most basic and obvious questions about socialism do 
not seem to have been answered at all; other questions, as 
will be seen later, have not even been asked. This ability to 
repel rational consideration seems itself to be yet one more 
enigmatic characteristic of this enigmatic phenomenon. 

In this essay I shall try to consider these questions and 
suggest some possible conclusions, using the best-known 
sources — the classics of socialism and composite histories. 

As a first approach let me try to describe purely phenome- 
nologically the general features of present-day socialist states 
and doctrines. The most emphatically proclaimed and the 
most widely known principle is, of course, the economic one: 
socialization of the means of production, nationalization, the 
various forms of state economic control. The primacy of eco- 
nomic demands among the basic principles of socialism is 
also emphasized in The Communist Manifesto of Marx and 
Engels: . . Communists can state their theory in one prop- 

osition: the destruction of private property.” 

If one considers this by itself, one naturally asks whether 



there is any difference in principle between socialism and 
capitalism. Isn’t socialism just a monopolistic form of capital- 
ism, isn’t it “state capitalism”? Such a doubt can indeed arise 
if one concentrates on economics alone, though even in eco- 
nomics there are many profound differences between capital- 
ism and socialism. But in other areas we come up against the 
true contradictions in principle between these systems. 
Thus, the basis of all modem socialist states is the party, a 
new formation which has nothing but the name in common 
with the parties of capitalist countries. It is typical of the so- 
cialist states that they try to spread their brand of socialism to 
other countries. This tendency has no economic basis and is 
harmful for the state, because it usually leads to the 
emergence of young and more aggressive rivals in its own 

At the bottom of all these differences lies the feet that so- 
cialism is not just an economic system, as is capitalism, but 
also — perhaps above all — an ideology . This is the only ex- 
planation for the hatred of religion in socialist states, a hatred 
which cannot be explained on economic or political grounds. 
This hatred appears like a birthmark in all the socialist states, 
but with varying degrees of prominence: from the almost 
symbolic conflict of the Fascist state in Italy with the Vatican 
to the total prohibition of religion in Albania and its procla- 
mation as “the world’s first atheist state.” 

Turning from the socialist states to socialist teachings, we 
meet with the same familiar positions: abolition of private 
property and hostility toward religion. We have already quo- 
ted The Communist Manifesto on the destruction of private 
property. The struggle with religion was the point of depar- 
ture of Marxism and an indispensable element in the social 
reformation of the world. In his article Toward a Critique of 
HegeVs “ Philosophy of Law” Marx said: “. . . the criticism 
of religion is the premise for any other form of criticism. . . , 
An obvious proof of the German theory’s radicalism, and nec- 
essarily of its practical energy, is the fact that it starts by 
decisively casting religion aside. . . . The emancipation of 
the German is the emancipation of mankind. The brain of 



this emancipation is philosophy” (he has the atheistic aspects 
of Feuerbach’s atheism in mind) “and its heart is the prole- 

S. Bulgakov, 2 in his work Karl Marx as a Religious Type, 
has shown how militant atheism, Marx’s central motivation, 
gave birth to his historical and social ideas: the ignoring of 
the individual and the human personality in the historical 
process, “the materialist interpretation of history,” and so- 
cialism. This point of view is fully confirmed in the posthu- 
mously published drafts for Marx’s book The Holy Family. 
There, Marx regards socialism as the highest level of athe- 
ism: if atheism “affirms man through the denial of God,” if it 
is the “negative affirmation of man,” then socialism is “man’s 
positive affirmation.” 

But socialist doctrine includes principles which are not 
proclaimed by the socialist states, at least not openly. Thus, 
anybody reading The Communist Manifesto with an open 
mind will be surprised at the amount of space devoted to the 
destruction of the family, to the rearing of children away from 
their parents in state schools, to wife-sharing. In their argu- 
ments with their opponents the authors nowhere renounce 
these propositions, but try to prove that these principles are 
higher than those on which the bourgeois society of their 
time was based. There is no evidence of a subsequent renun- 
ciation of these views. 3 

In modem left-wing movements which are socialist but 
not, for the most part, Marxist, the slogan of “sexual revolu- 
tion,” that is, the destruction of traditional family rela- 
tionships, also plays a basic part. A clear recent example of 
this tendency is the “Red Army,” the Trotskyist organization 
in Japan, which became famous after a series of murders 
committed by it at the beginning of the 1970s. The victims 

2. See note on page 20 . — Trans. 

3. The attitude to this delicate question can be traced in the various transla- 
tions of The Communist Manifesto. In the collected works of Marx and 
Engels of 1929 we read: “The only reproach which it might be possible to 
level at Communists is that they want official and open wife-sharing instead 
of hypocritical and concealed wife-sharing.” In the 1955 edition the words 
“that they want” are replaced by “that they are alleged to want.” 



were mostly members of the organization itself. New 
members were supposed to break all family ties and the 
murders took place when this rule was ignored. The accusa- 
tion “he behaved like a husband” was considered to justify a 
death sentence. The murder of one partner was often en- 
trusted to the other. Any children bom were taken from their 
mothers and given to another woman, who fed them on dried 

So, among the principles which are present in many un- 
connected socialist states or present-day movements and 
which can therefore be attributed to the basic premises of so- 
cialism, are: the abolition of private property, the destruc- 
tion of religion, the destruction of the family. Socialism 
appears before us not as a purely economic concept, but as an 
incomparably wider system of views, embracing almost every 
aspect of human existence. 


We may hope to evaluate socialism correctly if we can find 
the right scale by which to measure it. With this in mind it is 
natural to step back from the perhaps too narrow frame of 
contemporaneity, and to consider it in its wider historical 
context. This we shall do in relation to socialist states and to 
socialist teachings. 

Are socialist states specific to our era, or do they have prec- 
edents? There can be no doubt about the answer: many cen- 
turies and even millennia ago there existed societies which 
embodied much more fully and consistently the socialist ten- 
dencies which we observe in modem states. Two examples 
will suffice. 

(1) Mesopotamia in the twenty-second and twenty-first 
centuries B.C. Mesopotamia was one of the cradles of civiliza- 
tion where the first states known to historians arose in the 
fourth millennium before Christ. They were formed on the 
basis of the economies of separate temples, which collected 
large masses of peasants and craftsmen around them and de- 



veloped an intensive agriculture based on irrigation. Toward 
the middle of the third millennium, Mesopotamia broke up 
into small kingdoms in which the basic economic units re- 
mained the separate temples. Then, the Accadian king 
Sargon began the era when Mesopotamia was again united in 
a single state. I shall summarize some of the facts about the 
state which in the twenty-second and twenty-first centuries 
united Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Elam. Its capital was Ur, 
and the whole period is called the era of the Third Dynasty 
of Ur. 

Archaeologists have found huge quantities of cuneiform 
tablets reflecting the economic life of the time. From these 
we know that the basis of the economy remained the temple 
units, but after the unification they lost all their indepen- 
dence and became cells in a unified state economy. Their 
heads were appointed by the king, they submitted detailed 
accounts to the capital, and their work was reviewed by the 
king’s inspectors. Groups of workers were often transported 
from one temple to another. 

Agricultural workers, men, women and children, were di- 
vided into parties headed by overseers. They worked all the 
year round, moving from one field to another and receiving 
seed grain, tools and draft animals from temple and state 
stores. Similarly, in groups under a commander, they used to 
go to the stores for their food. The family was not regarded as 
an economic unit: provisions were issued not to the head of a 
family but to each worker or more often to the commander. 
The documents relate separately to men, women, children 
and orphans. Evidently there was no question of being al- 
lowed even the use, let alone the ownership, of plots of land 
for this category of workers. 

The other groups of inhabitants fed themselves by cultivat- 
ing the plots set aside for them. Thus there were fields allo- 
cated to individuals, fields for craftsmen and fields for 
shepherds. But these fields were worked by the same work- 
ers as the state lands, and the work was supervised by state 

The towns contained state workshops, of which the biggest 



were in the capital, Ur. The workers received tools, raw ma- 
terials and half-finished products from the state. The prod- 
ucts of the workshops went into the state warehouses. 
Craftsmen, like agricultural workers, were divided into par- 
ties under overseers. Provisions were issued to them by the 
state stores on the basis of lists. 

Agricultural workers and craftsmen figure in the accounts 
as workers of full strength, two-thirds strength, or one-sixth 
strength. On this depended the norms for their provisions. 
Work norms also existed which determined the scale of the 
worker’s rations. The temples submitted lists of the dead, the 
sick, and of absentees (with reasons). Workers could be trans- 
ferred from one field to another, from one workshop to an- 
other, sometimes from one town to another. Agricultural 
workers were sent to assist in the workshops and craftsmen 
were sent to work in the fields or haul barges. The bondage 
of large classes of the population is highlighted by the nu- 
merous documents concerning fugitives. These documents 
name the fugitives and their relatives, and they concern not 
only barbers or the sons of shepherds, but also priests and 
their sons. This picture of the life of the workers opens with 
regular statements about the death rate (for the removal of 
the dead from food lists). One document declares a 10 per- 
cent mortality among its workers; another, 14 percent; yet 
another, 28 percent. Mortality was particularly high among 
women and children, who were employed on the heaviest 
work, such as hauling. 

(2) The empire of the Incas. This great empire, numbering 
several million inhabitants and covering the territory from 
present-day Chile to Ecuador, was conquered by Spain in the 
sixteenth century. The conquerors have left detailed descrip- 
tions which give an excellent picture of the life which they 
could see or learn about from the natives. The descriptions 
depict the nature of the social system there so clearly that 
even in modem histories of this state, the headings very 
often use the term “socialist.” 

The Inca state did not know private ownership of the 
means of production. Most of its inhabitants hardly owned a 



thing. Money was unknown. Trade played no perceptible 
role in the economy. 

The basis of the economy, the land, belonged theoretically 
to the head of the state, the Inca. That is, it was state property 
and the inhabitants only had the use of it. Members of the 
governing class, the Incas, owned some land only in the 
sense that they received the income from it. The cultivation 
of these lands was done by the peasants as a form of service 
to the state and was supervised by state officials. 

The peasant received for his use a plot of specified size 
and additional strips as his family grew. When the peasant 
died, all the land reverted to the state. There were two other 
large categories of land: that owned directly by the state, and 
that owned by the temples. All the land was worked by de- 
tachments of peasants commanded and supervised by of- 
ficials. Even the moment to begin work was indicated by a 
signal, which consisted of an official blowing a hom from a 
tower specially constructed for this purpose. 

Peasants also worked as craftsmen. They received raw ma- 
terials from state officials and handed their products back to 
them. Peasants were also builders, and for this purpose they 
were organized into great work brigades of up to twenty 
thousand men. Finally, the peasants were liable for military 

The whole life of the population was regulated by the 
state. For the Inca governing class there existed only one 
field of activity, service in the military or civilian bureau- 
cracy, for which they were trained in closed state schools. 
The details of their personal life were controlled by the state. 
For instance, an official of a given rank could have a pre- 
scribed number of wives and concubines, a set amount of 
gold and silver vessels, and so on. 

But the life of the peasant was, of course, much more regi- 
mented. All his activities were prescribed for each period of 
his life: between the ages of nine and sixteen he was to be a 
shepherd, from sixteen to twenty he had to serve in an Inca’s 
house, and so on down to old age. Peasant girls could be sent 
by the officials to the Incas’ houses as servants or concubines, 



and they supplied the material for the mass human sacrifices. 
Peasant marriages were arranged by an official once a year 
according to lists prepared in advance. 

The peasants’ diet, the size of their huts and their utensils 
were all laid down. Special inspectors traveled about the 
country to ensure that the peasants observed all these prohi- 
bitions and kept working. 

The peasant received his clothing, a cape, from state stores, 
and in each province the cape was of a specified color and 
could not be dyed or altered. These measures, and the fact 
that each province prescribed a distinctive hairstyle, facili- 
tated surveillance of the population. Peasants were forbidden 
to leave their village without the permission of the authori- 
ties. The bridges and town boundaries were guarded by 

This whole system was supported by a schedule of punish- 
ments elaborated with striking thoroughness. Almost always 
they amounted to the death penalty, which was executed in 
an extraordinary variety of ways. The condemned were 
thrown into ravines, stoned, hung by the hair or the feet, 
thrown into a cave with poisonous snakes. Sometimes, in ad- 
dition to this, they were tortured before being killed, and af- 
terward the body was not allowed to be buried: instead, the 
bones were made into flutes and skins used for drums. 

These two examples cannot be ignored as isolated para- 
doxes. One could quote many others. A hundred and fifty 
years after the Spanish conquest of the Incas, for example, 
the Jesuits constructed in a remote part of Paraguay a society 
on analogous principles. Private ownership of the land did 
not exist, there was neither trade nor money, and the life of 
the Indians was just as strictly controlled by the authorities. 

The Old Kingdom of Egypt was close to the Mesopotamian 
states both in time and because of its system. The Pharaoh 
was considered the owner of all the land and gave it only for 
temporary use. The peasants were regarded as one of the 
products of the land and were always transferred with it 
They had obligations of state service: digging canals, build- 
ing pyramids, hauling barges, quarrying and transporting 



stone. In the state-owned enterprises craftsmen and workers 
received tools and raw materials from the king’s stores and 
gave their products back to them. The bureaucracy of scribes 
who managed these tasks is compared by Gordon Childe 
with the “commissars of Soviet Russia.” He writes, “Thus 
about three thousand years before Christ an economic revo- 
lution not only secured for the Egyptian craftsman his means 
of subsistence and his raw material, but also created the con- 
ditions for literacy and learning and gave birth to the State. 
But the social and economic organization created in Egypt by 
Menes and his successors as revolutionaries was centralized 
and totalitarian” (What Happened in History ). 4 

One could cite other examples of societies whose, life was 
to a significant degree based on socialist principles. But the 
ones we have already indicated show sufficiently clearly that 
the emergence of socialist states is not the privilege of any 
specific era or continent. It seems that this was the form in 
which the state arose: “the world’s first socialist states” were 
the world’s first states of any kind. 

If we turn to socialist doctrine, we see a similar picture 
here too. These teachings did not arise either in the twen- 
tieth century or the nineteenth; they are more than two thou- 
sand years old. Their history can be divided into three 

(1) Socialist ideas were well known in antiquity. The first 
socialist system, whose influence can be seen in all its count- 
less variations right up to the present, was created by Plato. 
Through Platonism socialist ideas penetrated to the Gnostic 
sects which surrounded early Christianity, and also to Mani- 
chaeism. In this period the ideas of socialism were prop- 
agated in schools of philosophy and in narrow mystical 

(2) In the Middle Ages socialist ideas found their way to 
the masses. In a religious guise they were propagated within 
various heretical movements, the Catharists, the Brethren of 
the Free Spirit, the Apostolic Brethren, and the Beghards. 

4. See Gordon Childe, What Happened in History (New York: Penguin 
Books, 1946).— Trans. 



They inspired several powerful popular movements, for ex- 
ample, the Patarenes of fourteenth-century Italy, or the 
Czech Taborites of the fifteenth century. Their influence was 
particularly strong during the Reformation and their traces 
can still be seen in the English revolution in the seventeenth 

(3) Beginning with the sixteenth century, socialist ideol- 
ogy took a new direction. It threw off its mystical and re- 
ligious form and based itself on a materialistic and rationalist 
view of the world. Typical of this was a militantly hostile atti- 
tude to religion. The spheres in which socialist ideas were 
propagated changed yet again: the preachers, who had ad- 
dressed themselves to craftsmen and peasants, were replaced 
by philosophers and writers who strove to influence the read- 
ing public and the higher strata of society. This movement 
came to its peak in the eighteenth century, the “Age of En- 
lightenment.” At the end of that century a new objective 
made itself felt, that of bringing socialism out of the salons, 
out of the philosophers study, and into the suburbs, onto the 
streets. There followed a renewed attempt to put socialist 
ideas behind a mass movement. 

In this writer’s opinion, neither the nineteenth nor the 
twentieth century introduced anything that was new in prin- 
ciple into the development of socialist ideology. 

Let us cite a few illustrations to give an idea of the nature 
of socialist teachings and to draw attention to certain features 
which will be important in the discussion to follow. 

(1) Plato’s Republic depicts an ideal social system. In 
Plato’s state, power belongs to the philosophers, who govern 
the country with the help of warriors (also called guardians). 
Plato’s main concern was with the way of life of these guard- 
ians, since not only were the philosophers to be chosen from 
among them, but they were also to control the rest of the pop- 
ulation. He wanted to subordinate their life completely to the 
interests of the state, and to organize it so as to exclude the 
possibility of a split and the emergence of conflicting in- 

The first means of achieving this was the abolition of pri- 



vate property. The guardians were to own nothing but their 
own bodies. Their dwellings could be entered by anybody 
who wished to. They were to live in the republic like hired 
laborers, serving only in return for food and no other reward. 

For the same purpose the individual family was also abol- 
ished. All the men and women in the guardian class were to 
share their mates with all the others. Instead of marriage 
there was to be brief, state-controlled sexual union, for the 
purposes of physical satisfaction and the production of per- 
fect progeny. To this end the philosophers were to yield to 
distinguished guardians the right of more frequent sexual 
union with the more beautiful women. 

Children, from the moment of birth, would not know their 
own fathers or even mothers. They were to be cared for com- 
munally by all the women who happened to be lactating, and 
the children passed around all the time. And the state would 
take care of their subsequent upbringing. At the same time a 
special role was assigned to art, which was to be purged 
mercilessly in the name of the same goals. A work of art was 
considered all the more dangerous, the more perfect it was 
from the aesthetic point of view. The “fables of Hesiod and 
Homer” were to be destroyed, and most of classical literature 
with them — everything that might suggest the idea that the 
gods were imperfect and unjust, that might induce fear or 
gloom, or could inculcate disrespect for the authorities. New 
myths were to be invented, on the other hand, to develop in 
the guardians the necessary civic virtues. 

Apart from this ideological supervision, the life of the 
guardians was to be biologically controlled as well. This con- 
trol began with the careful selection of parents able to pro- 
vide the best progeny, and selection was based on the 
achievements of agriculture. Children of unions not sanc- 
tioned by the state, like those with physical imperfections, 
were to be destroyed. The selection of adults was to be en- 
trusted to medicine: doctors would treat some patients, allow 
others to die, and kill the remainder. 

(2) The philosophy of the medieval heretics was based on 
the opposition between the spiritual and the material worlds 



as two antagonistic and mutually exclusive categories. It 
begot hostility toward the whole material world and in partic- 
ular to all forms of social life. All these movements rejected 
military service, oaths or litigation, personal submission to 
ecclesiastical and secular authority, and some rejected mar- 
riage and property. Some movements considered only mar- 
riage a sin, but not adultery, so that this demand did not have 
an ascetic character but aimed at the destruction of the fam- 
ily. Many sects were accused by their contemporaries of 
“free” or “sacred” love. One contemporary states, for in- 
stance, that the heretics considered that “marital ties contra- 
dict the laws of nature, since these laws demand that 
everything should be held in common.” In precisely the 
same way, the denial of private property was linked with its 
renunciation in favor of the sect, and the common ownership 
of property was fostered as an ideal. “In order to make their 
teaching more attractive, they introduced common owner- 
ship,” according to the record of one thirteenth-century trial 
of some heretics. 

These more radical aspects of the doctrine were usually 
communicated only to the elite of the sect, the “perfected,” 
who were sharply set apart from the basic mass of “believ- 
ers.” But in times of social crisis the preachers and apostles 
of the sect used to take their socialist ideas to the masses. As 
a rule these ideas were mingled with calls for the destruction 
of the whole existing order and above all of the Catholic 

Thus, at the beginning of the thirteenth century in Italy the 
Patarene movement, led by preachers from the sect of the 
Apostolic Brethren, provoked a bloody three-year war. The 
Apostolic Brethren taught that “in love everything must be 
held in common — property and wives.” Those who joined 
the sect had to hand all their property over for common use. 
They thought of the Catholic Church as the whore of Baby- 
lon and the pope as Antichrist, and they called for the murder 
of the pope, bishops, priests, monks, and of all the godless. 
Any action against the enemies of the true faith was pro- 
claimed to be permissible. 



A little over a hundred years later heretical sects domi- 
nated the Taborite movement, whose raids terrorized central 
Europe for a quarter of a century. Of them a contemporary 
says: “In the Citadel or Tabor there is no Mine or Thine, ev- 
erybody uses everything equally: all must hold everything in 
common, and nobody must have anything separately, and he 
who does is a sinner.” Their preachers taught: “Everything, 
including wives, must be held in common. The sons and 
daughters of God will be free, and there will be no marriage 
as a union of just two — man and wife. . . . All institutions 
and human decisions must be abolished, since none of them 
was created by the Heavenly Father. . . . The priests’ houses 
and all church property must be destroyed: churches, altars 
and monasteries must be demolished. . . . All those who 
have been elevated and given power must be bent like the 
twigs of trees and cut down, burned in the stove like straw, 
leaving not a root nor a shoot, they must be ground like 
sheaves, the blood must be drained from them, they must be 
killed by scorpions, snakes and wild animals, they must be 
put to death.” 

The great specialist on the history of the heresies, I. von 
Dollinger, describes their social principles as follows: 
“Every heretical movement that appeared in the Middle 
Ages possessed, openly or secretly, a revolutionary character; 
in other words, if it had come to power it would have had to 
destroy the existing social order and produce a political and 
social revolution. These Gnostic sects, the Catharists and Al- 
bigensians, whose activities evoked severe and implacable 
legislation against heresy and were bloodily opposed, were 
socialists and communists. They attacked marriage, the fam- 
ily, and property.” 

These features appeared still more clearly in the heretical 
movements after the Reformation, in the sixteenth century. 
We shall adduce one example, the teaching of Niklas Storch, 
leader of the so-called Zwickau prophets. 5 This teaching, as 

5. A particular follower of his was Thomas Miintzer, who played such an im- 
portant role in the Peasants' War. 



described in a contemporary book, included the following 

“1) No marital connection, whether secret or open, is to be 
observed. 2) On the contrary, any man can take wives when 
the flesh demands it and his passions rise, and live with them 
in bodily intimacy exactly as he pleases. 3) Everything is to 
be held in common, since God sent all people into the world 
equal. Similarly He gave equally to all the possession of the 
earth, of fowl in the air and fish in the sea. 4) Therefore all 
authorities, terrestrial and spiritual, must be dismissed once 
and for all, or be put to the sword, for they live untrammeled, 
they drink the blood and sweat of their poor subjects, they 
guzzle and drink day and night. . . . So we must all rise, the 
sooner the better, arm ourselves and fell upon the priests in 
their cozy little nests, massacre them and wipe them out. For 
if you deprive the sheep of their leader, you can do what you 
like with them. Then we must fall upon the bloodsuckers, 
seize their houses, loot their property and raze their castles to 
the ground.” 

(3) In 1516 appeared the book which started a new stage 
in the development of socialist thought, Thomas More’s Uto- 
pia. Being in the form of a description of an ideal state built 
on socialist principles, it continued, after a two-thousand- 
year break, the tradition of Plato, but in the completely dif- 
ferent conditions of Western Europe of the Renaissance. The 
most significant works to follow in this new current were The 
City of the Sun by the Italian monk Tommaso Campanella 
(1602), and The Law of Freedom in a Platform by his con- 
temporary in the English revolution, Gerrard Winstanley 

From the end of the seventeenth century and in the eight- 
eenth, socialist views spread more and more widely among 
writers and philosophers and there appeared a veritable tor- 
rent of socialist literature. The “socialist novel” came into 
being, in which descriptions of socialist states were in- 
tertwined with romance, travel and adventure (for example, 
The History of the Savarambi by Verras; The Republic of 



Philosophers by Fontenelle; The Southern Discovery by 
Retif de la Bretonne). The number of new philosophical, so- 
ciological and moral tracts preaching socialist views con- 
stantly increased (for example, Meslier’s Testament; The 
Law of Nature by Morelly; Thoughts on the Condition of Na- 
ture by Mably; The True System by Deschamps; and pas- 
sages in Diderot’s Supplement to the ‘‘Journey” of 

All these works agree in proclaiming as a basic principle 
the common ownership of property. Most of them supple- 
ment it with compulsory labor and bureaucratic rule (More, 
Campanella, Winstanley, Verras, Morelly). Others depict a 
country divided into small agricultural communes ruled by 
their most experienced members or by old men (Meslier, 
Deschamps). Many systems presuppose the existence of slav- 
ery (More, Winstanley, Verras, Fenelon), and More and Win- 
stanley regard it not only as an economic category but as a 
means of punishment upholding the stability of society. They 
offer frequent elaborations of the ways in which society will 
subordinate the individuality of its members. Thus, More 
speaks of a system of passes which would be essential not 
only for journeys about the country but for walks outside the 
town, and he prescribes identical clothing and housing for 
everybody. Campanella has the inhabitants going about in 
platoons and the greatest crime for a woman is to lengthen 
her dress or paint her face. Morelly forbids all thought on 
social or moral subjects. Deschamps assumes that all cul- 
ture — art, science and even literacy — will wither away 

An important part is played in these works by consider- 
ation of the way in which the family and sexual relations are 
to change (Campanella, Retif, Diderot, Deschamps). Cam- 
panella assumes absolute bureaucratic control in this domain. 
Bureaucrats decide which man is to couple with which 
woman, and when. The union itself is supervised by officials. 
Children are reared by the state. Deschamps thinks that the 
menfolk of a village will be the husbands of all the women, 
and that the children will never know their parents. 



A new view of human history was worked out. Medieval 
mysticism had regarded it as a unified process of the revela- 
tion of God in three stages. Now this was transformed into 
the idea of a historical process subject to immanent laws and 
likewise consisting of three stages, the last of which leads 
inescapably to the triumph of the socialist ideal (e.g., 
Morelly, Deschamps). 

Unlike the medieval heresies, which had attacked only the 
Catholic religion, the socialist world view now became hos- 
tile to any religion, and socialism fused with atheism. In 
More, freedom of conscience is linked with the recognition 
of pleasure as the highest objective in life. Campanella’s re- 
ligion resembles a pantheistic deification of the cosmos. Win- 
stanley’s attitude to religion is one of outright hostility, his 
“priests” are merely the agitators and propagandists of the 
system he describes. Deschamps considers that religion will 
wither away, together with the rest of culture. But Meslier’s 
Testament stands out for its aggressive attitude toward re- 
ligion. In religion he sees the root of mankind’s misfortunes, 
he considers it a patent absurdity, a malignant superstition. 
He particularly loathes the person of Christ, whom he 
showers with abuse in protracted tirades, even blaming him 
because “he was always poor” and “he wasn’t resourceful 

The very end of the eighteenth century saw the first at- 
tempt to put the socialist ideology which had been devel- 
oped into practice. In 1786 in Paris a secret society called the 
“Union of the Equal” was founded with the aim of preparing 
a revolution. The plot was discovered and its participants ar- 
rested, but their plans have been preserved in detail, thanks 
to the documents published by the government and to the 
memoirs of the plotters who survived. 

Among the aims which the plotters had set themselves, the 
first was the abolition of private property. The whole French 
economy was to be fully centralized. Trade was to be sus- 
pended and replaced by a system of state provisioning. All 
aspects of life were to be controlled by a bureaucracy: “The 
fatherland takes possession of a man from the day of his birth 



and does not let him go until his very death.” Every man was 
to be regarded to some extent as an official supervising both 
his own behavior and that of others. Everybody was to be 
obliged to work for the state, while “the uncooperative, the 
negligent, and people who lead dissolute lives or set a bad 
example by their absence of public spirit” were to be con- 
demned to forced labor. For this purpose many islands were 
to be turned into strictly isolated places of confinement. 

Everybody was to be obliged to eat in communal refec- 
tories. Moving about the country without official permission 
was to be forbidden. Entertainments which were not avail- 
able to everybody were categorically forbidden. Censorship 
was to be introduced and publications “of a falsely denuncia- 
tory character” were forbidden. 


We can now return to the basic topic of this essay. How- 
ever short and disjointed our digression into the history of so- 
cialism has been, one essential conclusion is beyond doubt: 
socialism cannot be linked with a specific area, geographical 
context, or culture. All its features, familiar to us from con- 
temporary experience, are met in various historical, geo- 
graphical and cultural conditions: in socialist states we 
observe the abolition of private ownership of the means of 
production , state control of everyday life, and the subordi- 
nation of the individual to the power of the bureaucracy; in 
socialist doctrines we observe the destruction of private 
property, of religion , 6 of the family and of marriage , and 
the introduction of wife-sharing. 

This cannot be considered a new conclusion: many writers 

6. The ideology of Plato's Republic appears to me to be irreligious, since 
religion has no place in it. The medieval heresies had the appearance of 
religious movements, but they were the swom enemies of that specific re- 
ligion which the society around them preached. The murder of monks and 
priests, defilement of churches and burning of crosses are characteristic of 
their whole history. And this fundamental hatred that they all shared was the 
nucleus out of which grew the other aspects of their philosophy. 



have pointed to the socialist character of such societies as the 
empire of the Incas, the Jesuit state, or the early states of 
Mesopotamia, while the history of socialist doctrine has been 
the subject of numerous monographs (some of them even by 
socialists). Thus, in his book An Outline of the History of So- 
cialism in Most Recent Times R. Y. Vipper writes: “one could 
say of socialism that it is as old as human society.” 

Curiously enough this observation has not been used to 
evaluate socialism as a historical phenomenon. But its signif- 
icance cannot be exaggerated. It calls for a complete review 
and replacement of the established principles by which we 
seek to understand socialism. If socialism is a feature of 
nearly all historical periods and civilizations, then its origins 
cannot be explained by any reasons connected with the spe- 
cific features of a specific period or culture: neither by the 
contradiction between the productive forces and industrial 
relations under capitalism, nor by the psychological charac- 
teristics of the Africans or Arabs. To try to understand it in 
such a way hopelessly distorts the perspective, by squeezing 
this great universal historical phenomenon into the unsuit- 
able framework of economic, historical and racial categories. 
I shall try below to approach the same questions from the op- 
posite point of view: that socialism is one of those basic and 
universal forces that have been in operation over the entire 
span of human history. 

A recognition of this, of course, in no way clarifies the his- 
torical role of socialism. We can approach an understanding 
of this role by trying to elucidate the aims which socialism it- 
self avows. But here we run up against the fact that ap- 
parently there are two answers to this question, depending 
on whether we are talking about socialism as a state structure 
or as a doctrine. Whereas the socialist states (modem and an- 
cient alike) all base themselves on the one principle of the 
destruction of private property, socialist doctrines advance a 
number of other basic propositions over and above that, such 
as the destruction of the family. 

Here we meet two systems of views, one typical of “social- 
ist theory,” the other typical of “socialist practice.” How do 



we reconcile them and which is the true version of the aims 
of socialism? 

The following answer suggests itself (and has in some par- 
ticular cases been given): the slogans about the destruction of 
the family and marriage and — in their more radical form — 
about wife-sharing, are necessary only for the destruction of 
the existing social structures, for whipping up fanaticism and 
rallying the socialist movements. These slogans cannot, in 
themselves, be put into practice; indeed, that is not their 
function — they are necessary only before the seizure of 
power. The only vital proposition in all the socialist teach- 
ings is the destruction of private property. And this indeed is 
the true aim of the movement, and the only one which 
should be taken into consideration in discussing the role of 
socialism in history. 

It seems to me that this point of view is essentially false. 
First, because socialism, being an ideology capable of inspir- 
ing grandiose popular movements and creating its own saints 
and martyrs, cannot be founded on deception. It must be in- 
fused with a deep inner unity. And on the contrary, history 
can show us many examples of the striking candor and, in 
some sense, honesty with which similar movements have 
proclaimed their objectives. If there is any deception here it 
is on the side of the opponents of these movements, who are 
guilty of self-deception. How often they strive to persuade 
themselves that the most extreme ideological propositions of 
a movement are irresponsible demagogy and fanaticism. 
Then they are perplexed to discover that actions which 
seemed improbable on account of their radical nature are the 
fulfillment of a program which was never concealed, but was 
proclaimed thunderously in public and expounded in all the 
known writings about it. We should note furthermore that all 
the basic propositions of socialist doctrine can be found in 
the works of such “detached” thinkers as Plato and Cam- 
panella, who were not connected with any popular move- 
ments. Evidently these principles arose in their writings as a 
result of some inner logic and unity in socialist ideology. 



which consequently cannot be tom into two parts, one to be 
used in the seizure of power and then thrown away. 

On the other hand, it is easy to see why socialist ideology 
goes beyond the practice of the socialist states and outstrips 
it The thinker or organizer behind a popular movement on 
the one hand, and the socialist politician on the other, even 
though they base themselves on a unified ideology, have to 
solve different problems and work in different spheres. For 
the creator or propounder of socialist doctrine it is important 
to take the system to its uttermost logical conclusions, since it 
is precisely in that form that they will be most accessible and 
most contagious. But the head of state has to consider, above 
all, how to retain power. He begins to feel pressures that 
force him to move away from a program of rigid adherence to 
ideological norms, the pursuit of which would jeopardize the 
very existence of the socialist state. It is no coincidence that 
for many decades the same phenomenon has been repeating 
itself with such monotony, namely, that as soon as a socialist 
movement comes to power (or at least to a share of power) its 
less fortunate brothers anathematize it, accusing it of betray- 
ing the socialist ideal — only to be accused of the same 
should fortune smile on them. 

But the dividing line that separates the slogans of the so- 
cialist movements from the practice of the socialist states 
does not run at all between the economic principles of social- 
ism and its demands for the destruction of the family and 
marriage. Indeed, the propositions relating to economics and 
to changing industrial relations are also not realized with 
equal degrees of radicalism in the various socialist states. 

A dramatic attempt to embody these principles to the full 
was made during the period of “war communism” in our 
country. The aim then was to base the entire Russian econ- 
omy on the direct exchange of goods, to reduce the market 
and the role of money to nothing, to introduce the universal 
conscription of industrial labor, to introduce collective work- 
ing of the land, to replace trade in agricultural products by 
confiscations and state distribution. The term “war commu- 



nism” is itself misleading because it makes us think of war- 
time measures evoked by the exceptional situation during 
the civil war. But when this policy was being pursued that 
term was not used: it was introduced after the civil war, 
when “war communism” was renounced and recognized as a 
temporary expedient. 

It was precisely when the civil war had in feet been won, 
and plans were being worked out for the governing of the 
country in peacetime conditions, that Trotsky, on behalf of 
the Central Committee, presented to the Ninth Congress of 
the Party the program for the “militarization” of the econ- 
omy. Peasants and workers were to be put in the position of 
mobilized soldiers formed into “work units approximating to 
military units” and provided with commanders. Everyone 
was to feel that he was a “soldier of work who cannot be his 
own master; if the order comes to transfer him he had to 
comply; if he refuses he will be a deserter who is punished.” 

To justify these plans Trotsky developed this theory: If 
we accept at face value the old bourgeois prejudice — or 
rather not the old bourgeois prejudice but the old bourgeois 
axiom which has become a prejudice — that forced labor is 
unproductive, then this would apply not only to the work 
armies but to conscripted labor as a whole, to the basis of our 
economic construction and to socialist organization in gen- 
eral.” But it turns out that the “bourgeois axiom” is true only 
when applied to feudalism and capitalism, but is inapplica- 
ble to socialism! “We say: it is not true that forced labor is 
unproductive in all circumstances and in all conditions. 

After a year “war communism” and “militarization” were 
replaced by the New Economic Policy as a result of devasta- 
tion, hunger and rural uprisings. But the previous views were 
not deposed. On the contrary, the NEP was declared to be 
only a temporary retreat. And indeed, those very ideas con- 
tinued to permeate Stalin’s activity and the pronouncements 
of the opposition whom he was fighting. They were stated in 
Stalin’s last work The Economic Problems of Socialism, in 
which he called for a curtailment of trade and the circulation 
of money, and their replacement by a system of barter. 



We see a similar picture in the appearance in our country 
of another basic feature of socialism, hostility to religion. 
Nineteen thirty-two saw the inauguration of the “godless 
five-year plan,” under which the last church was planned to 
be closed by 1936, while by 1937 the name of God was no 
longer supposed to be uttered in our country. In spite of the 
unprecedented scale assumed by its religious persecutions, 
the “godless five-year plan” was not fulfilled. The un- 
foreseen readiness of believers to submit to any tortures, the 
birth of an underground Orthodox Church and the stead- 
fastness of believers of other faiths, the war, the tumultuous 
rebirth of religious life in the territories occupied by the Ger- 
mans — all these factors forced Stalin to give up his plan of 
uprooting religion and to recognize its right to exist. But the 
principle of hostility to religion remained and found expres- 
sion again in the persecutions under Khrushchev. 

Let us try to examine the socialist principles relating to the 
family and marriage from the same point of view. The first 
years after the revolution, the 1920s, again provide an ex- 
ample of how attempts were made to put these principles 
into practice. 

The general Marxist views on the development of the fam- 
ily, on which the practice of those years was based, are ex- 
pounded in detail in Engels’s The Origin of the Family, 
Private Property and the State. They boil down to the asser- 
tion that the family is one of the “superstructures” erected on 
the economic base. In particular, “monogamy arose as a con- 
sequence of the concentration of great wealth in one person’s 
hands — that person, moreover, being a man — and the need 
to bequeath this wealth to the children of that man and no- 
body else.” In socialist society “the management of the indi- 
vidual household will be turned into a branch of social work. 
The care and upbringing of children will become a social 
matter.” Thus the family will lose all its social functions, 
which from the Marxist point of view means it will die out. 
The Communist Manifesto proclaims the disappearance of 
the “bourgeois family.” But by the twenties they were al- 
ready managing without this epithet. Professor S. Y. Volfson, 



in his lengthy work The Sociology of Marriage and the Fam- 
ily (1929), foresaw that the family would lose the following 
characteristics: its productive function (which it was already 
losing under capitalism), its joint household (people would 
take their meals communally), its child-rearing function (they 
would be reared in state nurseries and kindergartens), its role 
in the care of the aged, and the cohabitation of parents with 
children and of married couples. “The family will be purged 
of its social content, it will wither away. ...” 

Practical measures were taken in accordance with these 
ideological propositions. Thus, in his note “Ten Theses Con- 
cerning Soviet Power,” Lenin proposed taking “unflinching 
and systematic measures to replace individual housekeeping 
by separate families with the joint feeding of large groups of 
families.” And for decades afterward many people 
languished in houses built in the twenties, where the com- 
munal flats had no kitchens in anticipation of the gigantic 
“factory-kitchens” of the future. Legislation simplified the 
measures for entering into and dissolving marriage as much 
as possible, so that registration became merely one of the 
ways of confirming a marriage (together with its confirmation 
in the courts, for example), while divorce was granted at the 
immediate request of one of the partners. “To divorce in our 
country is in some cases easier than to sign out in the house 
register,” wrote one jurist. The family was viewed by leading 
personalities of the time as an institution opposed to society 
and the state. For instance, in her article entitled “Relations 
between the Sexes and Class Morality,” Alexandra Kollontai 
wrote: “For the working class, greater ‘fluidity’ and less fixity 
in sexual relations fully corresponds to, and is even a direct 
consequence of, the basic tasks of that class. In her opinion 
woman was to be regarded as a representative of the revolu- 
tionary class, “whose first duty is to serve the interests of the 
class as a whole and not of a differentiated separate unit. 

All these actions affected life in such a way that Lenin not 
only did not welcome the destruction of the “bourgeois fam- 
ily,” predicted by The Communist Manifesto, but said: “You 
know, of course, about the famous theory that in Communist 



society the satisfaction of sexual desires and of the need for 
love is as simple and insignificant as drinking a glass of 
water. This ‘glass of water’ theory has made our young peo- 
ple frantic, absolutely frantic. It has become the downfall of 
many of our young men and girls. Its adherents proclaim that 
this is a Marxist theory. We don’t want that kind of Marxism” 
(Clara Tsetkin, On Lenin). Indeed, in an inquiry conducted 
by the Communist Sverdlov Institute (the famous “Sverd- 
lovka”), only 3.7 percent of respondents indicated love as a 
reason for their first intercourse. As a result, in the European 
part of the USSR between 1924 and 1925 the proportion of 
divorces to marriages increased by 130 percent. In 1924, the 
number of divorces per thousand that took place during the 
first year of marriage was 260 in Minsk, 197 in Kharkov and 
159 in Leningrad. (Compare: 80 in Tokyo, 14 in New York, 
11 in Berlin.) A society was founded called “Down with 
Shame”; and “naked marches” anticipated the modem hip- 
pies by half a century. 

This historical precedent seems to us to show that in more 
favorable circumstances the socialist principle of the destruc- 
tion of the family might be realized in full, and marriage be 
stripped of all its functions except intercourse (spiritual or 
physical) between its members. Such a result may well come 
about in the near future, particularly in view of the increas- 
ing likelihood of government intervention in this sphere of 
human relations. “We shall interfere in the private relations 
between men and women only insofar as they disrupt our 
social structure,” wrote Marx. But who is to say what disrupts 
“our structure”? In the book by Professor Volfson which we 
have already quoted, he writes, “. . . we have every reason 
to believe that by the time socialism is established, child- 
birth will have been removed from the powers of na- 
ture. . . . But this, I repeat, is the only side of marriage 
which, in our opinion, the socialist society will be able to 
control.” Such measures were in fact used in Nazi Germany, 
both to avert the appearance of progeny undesirable from the 
point of view of the state, and in order to obtain the desired 
progeny. For instance, the Lebensbom organization created 



by the SS selected Aryan mates for unmarried women, and 
there was propaganda in favor of a system of auxiliary wives 
for racially pure men. And when China proclaimed the fol- 
lowing norm for family life: “One child is indispensable, two 
are desirable, three are impermissible,” one is entitled to 
think that the term “impermissible” was in some way en- 

It has nowadays become generally recognized that the 
crisis of overpopulation is one of the basic dangers (and per- 
haps the most frightening) that threaten mankind. Under 
these conditions attempts by governments to assume control 
of family relations may well be successful. Arnold Toynbee, 
for instance, considers that government intervention in these 
most delicate of human relations is inevitable in the very 
near future, and that as a result the totalitarian empires of the 
world will place cruel restrictions on human freedom in fam- 
ily life, just as in economics and politics. (See his book An 
Historian’s Approach to Religion. 1 ) In such a situation, and 
particularly with the increasing impairment of the spiritual 
values on which mankind could lean, the coming century is 
bringing with it the very real prospect of a socialist transfor- 
mation of family and marriage, a transformation whose spirit 
has already been divined by Plato and Campanella. 

These and other examples lead one to the conclusion that 
socialist ideology contains a unified complex of ideas welded 
together by internal logic. Of course, socialism takes on a va- 
riety of forms in differing historical conditions, for it cannot 
help mixing with other views. This is not surprising, and we 
would meet the same in an analysis of any phenomenon of a 
similar historical scale, for instance, religion. However, it is 
possible to isolate a very distinct nucleus and to formulate 
the “socialist ideal” that manifests itself either fully or in 
part, with greater or lesser impurity, in a variety of situations. 

Socialist theories have proclaimed this ideal in its most 
logical and radical form. The history of socialist states shows 
a chain of attempts to approximate to an ideal which has 

7. Arnold Toynbee, An Historians Approach to Religion (New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1965). — Trans. 



never yet been fully realized, but which can be reconstructed 
from those approximations. This reconstructible ideal of the 
socialist states coincides with the ideal of socialist doctrine, 
and in it we can see the unified “ socialist ideal.” 


The formulation of this ideal is now no longer a problem. 

The basic propositions of the socialist world view have 
often been proclaimed: the abolition of private property, re- 
ligion and the family. One of the principles which is not so 
often represented as fundamental, though it is no less wide- 
spread, is the demand for equality, the destruction of the hi- 
erarchy into which society has arranged itself. The idea of 
equality in socialist ideology has a special character, which is 
particularly important for an understanding of socialism. In 
the more consistent socialist systems equality is understood 
in so radical a way that it leads to a negation of the existence 
of any genuine differences between individuals: “equality” 
is turned into “equivalence.” 

For instance, Lewis Mumford (in The Myth of the Ma- 
chine) suggests that in their social structure the early states of 
Mesopotamia and Egypt expressed the concept of a machine 
whose components were the citizens of the state. In support 
of his argument he refers to contemporary drawings in which 
warriors or workers were depicted in a completely stereo- 
typed manner, like the components of a machine. 

The classic description of the socialist concept of equality 
is “Shigalyovism” — the socialist utopia quoted by Dos- 
toyevsky in The Possessed: 

“The thirst for education is already an aristocratic thirst. As 
soon as there is a family or love, there is a desire for property. 
We shall throttle that desire: we shall unleash drunkenness, 
scandal, denunciations; we shall unleash unprecedented de- 
bauchery; we shall extinguish every genius in his infancy. 
Everything must be reduced to the common denominator, 
total equality. 



“Each belongs to all, and all to each. All are slaves and 
equal in slavery. In extreme cases it will mean defamation 
and murder, but the main thing is equality. First there will 
be a drop in the standard of education, in learning and talent. 
A high level of learning and talent is accessible only to the 
very brainy. We must abolish the brainy! The brainy have 
always seized power and been despots. The brainy couldn’t 
be anything other than despots and have always brought 
more debauchery than good. We will execute or exile them. 
We will cut out Cicero’s tongue, gouge out Copernicus’s 
eyes, stone Shakespeare to death — that’s Shigalyovism! 
Slaves must be equal: freedom and equality have never yet 
existed without despotism, but there must be equality in the 
herd, that’s Shigalyovism!” 

Supporters of socialism usually declare The Possessed to be 
a parody, a slander on socialism. However, we shall take the 
risk of quoting a few passages in a similar vein: 

“This communism, everywhere negating the individuality 
of man, is merely the logical continuation of private property, 
which equally negates individuality.” 

“. . . it so overestimates the role and dominion of mate- 
rial property that it wants to destroy everything that cannot 
become the possession and private property of the masses; it 
wants to eliminate talent by force. . . 

“. . . finally, this movement, which aims to oppose to pri- 
vate property the universal ownership of private property, 
expresses itself in a completely animal form when to mar- 
riage (which is, of course, a certain form of exclusive private 
property) it opposes the communal ownership of women, as a 
result of which woman becomes a low form of social 

“In the way that a woman abandons marriage for the realm 
of general prostitution, so the whole world of wealth, that is, 
of man’s objectified essence, passes from the condition of 
exclusive marriage with a private owner to general prostitu- 
tion with the collective.” 

I should very much like the reader to try to guess the au- 
thor of these thoughts before looking at the answer: K. Marx, 



sketches for The Holy Family (published posthumously). To 
calm the reader let me hasten to qualify this: Marx sees com- 
munism in this way only “in its initial stages.” Further on, 
Marx depicts “communism as the positive destruction of pri- 
vate property,” in which he scientifically foresees quite other 
features. According to this book, for instance, every object 
will become “a humanified object or an objectified human” 
and “man assumes his many-sided essence in many-sided 
ways, that is, as an integral person.” 

There was also a socialist movement which endowed 
equality with such extraordinary significance that it derived 
its title, the “Union of the Equal,” from it Here is their in- 
terpretation of this concept: 

“We want real equality or death, that’s what we want. 

“For its sake we would agree to anything, we would sweep 
everything away in order to retain just this. Let all the arts 
vanish if necessary, so long as we are left with genuine 

The way in which equality is understood brings us to a 
striking correlation between socialism and religion. They 
consist of identical elements which, in their different con- 
texts, possess opposite meanings. “There is a similarity be- 
tween them in their diametrical opposition,” says 
Berdyayev 8 of Christianity and Marxism. The idea of human 
equality is also fundamental to religion, but it is achieved in 
contact with God, that is, in the highest sphere of human ex- 
istence. Socialism, as is clearly evident from the examples 
above, aims to establish equality by the opposite means of 
destroying all the higher aspects of the personality. It is this 
concept of equality to which the socialist principles of com- 
munal property and the destruction of the family relate, and 
it also explains the hatred of religion which saturates social- 
ist ideology. 

The socialist ideal, that basic complex of ideas which for 
many thousands of years has lain at the foundation of socialist 

8. Nikolai Berdyayev (1874-1948), ex-Marxist, later a religious philosopher 
and one of the chief contributors to Vekhi. Expelled from the Soviet Union 
in 1922 . — Trans. 



ideology, can now be formulated: (1) equality and the de- 
struction of hierarchy; (2) the destruction of private property; 
(3) the destruction of religion; (4) the destruction of the 

Dostoyevsky was by no means parodying when he drew 
his portrait: 

Do away at last with the nobles. 

Do away with the tsar as well, 

Take the land for common owners, 

Let your vengeance forever swell 
Against church and marriage and family, 

And all the old world’s villainy , 9 


We concluded above that there exists a unified ideal pro- 
claimed by socialist doctrine and implemented — with more 
or less faithfulness — in the socialist states. Our task now is 
to try to understand what essential changes in life its full 
implementation would produce. In doing so we will automat- 
ically arrive at a description of the aim of socialism and its 
role in history. 

The various types of socialist system and the life of the so- 
cialist states give us an opportunity to imagine how these 
general propositions would be concretely embodied. We get 
a picture which, although frightening and apparently strange 
at first sight, has an integral, inner logic and is thoroughly 
plausible. We must imagine a world in which every man and 
woman is “militarized” and turned into a soldier. They live 
in barracks or hostels, work under commanders, feed in com- 
munal refectories, and spend their leisure hours only with 
their own detachment. They need permits to go out in the 

9. This poem, “A Noble Personality,” is quoted in The Possessed as a Nihil- 
ist leaflet. The imitation turned out to be so accurate that a few years after 
the novel’s publication these lines found their way to the Third Department 
in the form of a leaflet which really was being distributed by Nihilists. 



street at night, to go for a walk outside the town or to travel to 
another town. They are all dressed identically, so that it is 
hard to tell the men from the women, and only the uniforms 
of the commanders stand out. Childbirth and relations be- 
tween the sexes are under the absolute control of the authori- 
ties. The individual family, marriage and the familial rearing 
of children do not exist. Children do not know their parents 
and are brought up by the state. All that is permitted in art 
are works which contribute to the education of the citizens in 
the spirit required by the state, while all the old art that does 
not conform to this is destroyed. Speculation is forbidden in 
the realms of philosophy, morality and particularly religion, 
of which all that remains is compulsory confession to one’s 
chiefs and the adoration of a deified head of state. Disobedi- 
ence is punished by slavery, which plays an important role in 
the economy. There are many other punishments and the 
culprit is obliged to repent and thank his punishers. The peo- 
ple take part in executions (by expressing their public ap- 
proval or stoning the offender.) Medicine also plays a part in 
the elimination of undesirables. 

None of these features has been taken from the novels of 
Zamyatin , 10 Huxley or Orwell: they have been borrowed 
from familiar socialist systems or the practice of socialist 
states, and we have selected only the typical ones which are 
met with in several variants. 

What will be the consequences of the establishment of 
such a system, in what direction will it take human history? 
In asking this question I am not asking to what extent a so- 
cialist society will be able to maintain the standard of living, 
secure the population’s food, clothing and housing, or protect 
it from epidemics. These admittedly complex questions do 
not form the basic problem, which is really that the establish- 
ment of a social order fully embodying the principles of so- 

10. Evgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937), outstanding modernist writer. Initially a 
Communist, he dissented strongly from Soviet methods of government after 
the revolution and left the Soviet Union in 1931 after personally appealing to 
Stalin. He is the author of We, the first (and best) anti-utopian novel of the 
twentieth century and the inspiration for Orwell’s 1984 . — Trans. 



cialism will lead to a complete alteration in man’s relation to 
life and to a radical break in the structure of human individ- 

One of the fundamental characteristics of human society is 
the existence of individual relations between people. As the 
excellent behaviorist researches of the last decades have 
shown, we are dealing here with a phenomenon of very an- 
cient, prehuman origin. There are many kinds of social ani- 
mals, and the societies they form are of two types: the 
anonymous and the individualized. In the first (for instance, 
in a shoal of herrings) the members do not know each other 
individually, and they are interchangeable in their relations. 
In the second (for example, a gaggle of wild geese) relations 
arise in which one member plays a special role in the life of 
another and cannot be replaced. The presence of such rela- 
tions is, in a certain sense, the factor which determines indi- 
viduality. And the destruction of these individual relations is 
one of the proclaimed goals of socialism — between hus- 
bands and wives and between parents and children. It is 
striking that among the forces which, according to the behav- 
iorists, support these individualized societies we find those 
of hierarchy and of territory. Likewise in human society hier- 
archy and property, above all one’s own house and plot of 
land, help to strengthen individuality: they secure the indi- 
vidual’s indisputable place in life and create a feeling of in- 
dependence and personal dignity. And their destruction 
figures among the basic aims advanced by socialism. 

Of course, only the very foundation of human society has a 
biological origin of that kind. The basic forces which promote 
the development of individuality are specifically human. 
These are religion, morality, the feeling of personal participa- 
tion in history, a sense of responsibility for the fate of man- 
kind. Socialism is hostile to these too. We have already 
quoted many examples of the hatred of religion which char- 
acterizes socialist doctrine and socialist states. In the most 
vivid socialist doctrines we usually find assertions that his- 
tory is directed by factors independent of the human will, 
while man himself is the product of his social environ- 


ment — doctrines which remove the yoke of responsibility 
which religion and morality place on man. 

And finally, socialism is directly hostile to the very phe- 
nomenon of human individuality. Thus, Fourier says that the 
basis of the future socialist structure will be the at present 
unknown feeling (“passion”) of unit£isme. In contemporary 
life he could only indicate the antithesis of this feeling: 
“This disgusting inclination has been given various names 
by specialists: moralists call it egoism, ideologists call it the 
%’ a new term which, however, contributes nothing new and 
is only a useless paraphrase of egoism.” 

Marx, noticing that even after the acquisition of democratic 
freedom society remains Christian, concluded that it is still 
“flawed” in that “. . . man — not man in general but each in- 
dividual man — considers himself a sovereign, higher being, 
and this is man in his uncultivated, nonsocial aspect in an ac- 
cidental form of existence, as he is in life. . . .” 

And even in Bebel, in whom participation in the parlia- 
mentary game and the enticing hopes of thus obtaining 
power so moderated all the radicalism of socialist ideology, we 
suddenly discover this picture: “The difference between the 
‘lazy’ and the ‘industrious,’ between the foolish and the wise 
cannot exist any more in the new society, since what we 
mean by those concepts will not exist either.” 

The fact that socialism leads to the suppression of individ- 
uality has frequently been remarked on. But this feature has 
usually been regarded as just a means for the attainment of 
some end: the development of the economy, the good of the 
whole people, the triumph of justice or universal material 
well-being. Such, for instance, was the point of view of 
S. Bulgakov, who juxtaposed socialism with the first tempta- 
tion of Christ: in “turning stones to bread” socialism tried to 
limit all mankind’s goals to the solution of purely material 
pioblems. In my opinion the whole history of socialism con- 
tradicts this view. Socialist doctrines, for instance, show sur- 
prisingly little interest in the immediate conquest of injustice 
and poverty. They condemn all efforts in this area as 
“bourgeois philanthropy,” “reformism” and “Uncle Tom- 



ism,” and the solution of these problems is postponed until 
the triumph of the socialist ideal. As always, Nechaev 11 is 
more candid than anyone: “If you don’t watch out the gov- 
ernment will suddenly dream up a reduction in taxation or 
some similar blessing. This would be a real disaster, because 
even under present conditions the people are moving gradu- 
ally upward, and if their penury is eased by even a fraction, if 
they manage to get just one cow more, they will regress by 
decades and all our work will be wasted. We must, on the 
contrary, oppress the people at every opportunity like, shall 
we say, sweatshop owners.” And so we come to the opposite 
point of view, that the economic and social demands of so- 
cialism are the means for the attainment of its basic aim , the 
destruction of individuality . And many of the purely eco- 
nomic principles preached by socialists (such as planning) 
have been shown by experience not to be organically con- 
nected with socialism at all — which, in fact, has turned out 
to be badly adapted to their existence. 

What will be the effect on life of a change in the spiritual 
atmosphere such that human individuality is destroyed in all 
its most essential forms? 

Such a revolution would amount to the destruction of Man, 
at least in the sense that has hitherto been contained in this 
concept. And not just an abstract destruction of the concept, 
but a real one too. It is possible to point to a model for the sit- 
uation we are considering in an analogous process which 
took place on a much smaller scale, namely, the clash be- 
tween primitive peoples and European civilization. Most 
ethnographers think that the main reason for the disappear- 
ance of many indigenous peoples was not their extermination 
by Europeans, not the diseases or alcoholism brought by the 
whites, but the destruction of their religious ideas and rit- 
uals, and of the way their life was arranged to give meaning 
to their existence. Even when Europeans seemed to be help- 

li. Sergei Nechaev (1847-1882), anarchist, Nihilist and one of Russia s first 
professional revolutionaries. In 1873 he was convicted for organizing the 
group murder of an innocent fellow-conspirator and was imprisoned in the 
Peter-Paul Fortress in St Petersburg. Many of his ideas were subsequently 
taken over by the Bolsheviks.— Trans. 



ing by improving their living conditions, organizing medical 
aid, introducing new types of crops and farm animals or ob- 
structing tribal wars, the situation did not change. The na- 
tives became generally apathetic, they aged prematurely, lost 
their will to live, died of diseases which previously they had 
survived with ease. The birthrate plummeted and the popu- 
lation dwindled. 

It seems obvious that a way of life which fully embodies 
socialist ideals must have the same result, with the sole dif- 
ference that the much more radical changes will bring a more 
universal result, the withering away of all mankind, and its 


There appears to be an inner organic link here: socialism 
aims at the destruction of those aspects of life which form the 
true basis of human existence. That is why we think that the 
death of mankind is the inescapable logical consequence of 
socialist ideology and simultaneously a real possibility, 
hinted at in every socialist movement and state with a degree 
of clarity which depends on its fidelity to the socialist ideal. 


If that is the objective conclusion toward which socialism 
is moving, what then is its subjective aim? What inspires all 
these movements and gives them their strength? The picture 
that emerges from our deliberations has all the appearances 
of a contradiction: socialist ideology, whose realization in full 
leads to the destruction of mankind, has for thousands of 
years inspired great philosophers and raised great popular 
movements. Why have they not been aware of the debacle 
that is the true end of socialism? And if aware, why have they 
not recoiled from it? What error of thought, what aberration 
of the feelings can propel people along a path whose end is 

It seems to me that the contradiction here is not real, but 
only apparent, as often happens when someone makes a 
proposition in an argument which seems so obvious that no- 



body pays any attention to it, yet it is this unnoticed proposi- 
tion that embodies the contradiction. In this particular 
argument the obvious element seems to be the proposition 
that the fatal nature of socialism has never been noticed, but 
the closer you become acquainted with socialist philosophy, 
the clearer it becomes that there is no error here, no aberra- 
tion. The organic connection between socialism and death is 
subconsciously or half-consciously felt by its followers with- 
out in the least frightening them at all. On the contrary, this 
is what gives the socialist movements their attraction and 
their motive force. This cannot of course be proved logically, 
it can be verified only by checking it against socialist litera- 
ture and the psychology of socialist movements. And here we 
are obliged to limit ourselves to a few heterogeneous ex- 
amples. . . 

If Nechaev, for instance, in calling on young people to join 
the revolution, also warned them that “the majority of the 
revolutionaries will perish without trace — that s the pros- 
pect” (one of those rare prophecies that was realized in full), 
what attraction did he have for them? He of all people could 
not appeal to God, or to the immortal soul, or to patriotism, or 
even to a sense of honor, since “in order to become a good 
socialist” he proposed the renunciation of “all feelings of 
kinship, friendship, love, gratitude, and even honor itself. 
In the proclamations issued by him and Bakunin 12 one can 
see quite clearly what it was that attracted them and infected 
the others: the urge for death and “unbridled destruction, 
“absolute and extraordinary.” A whole generation of contem- 
porary revolutionaries was doomed to perish in that confla- 
gration, a generation poisoned by the most squalid living 
conditions,” fit only to destroy and be destroyed. That was 
Bakunin’s sole aim. Not only were positive ideals absent, it 
was forbidden even to think about them: “We refuse point- 
blank to work out the future conditions of life . . . we do not 

12. Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), leading Russian revolutionary thinker of 
the nineteenth century and founder of Anarchism. Was a rival ol Marx tor the 
leadership of the early Communist movement 



wish to deceive ourselves with the dream that we shall have 
enough strength left for creation.” 

In the USSR our generation well remembers how we 
marched in columns of young pioneers and sang with fervor 
(as did the young people in the civil war, and the Red Guards 
before us): 

Bravely shall we enter battle 
On behalf of Soviet power 
And all together we shall die 
In this struggle of ours. 

And the greatest fervor, the greatest elan was evoked by that 
phrase “all together we shall die.” 

Or here is how three of the most famous socialist writers of 
the last century imagined the future of the human race: Saint- 
Simon foresaw that mankind would perish as a result of the 
planet’s drying up. Fourier thought the same because the 
earth would “stop rotating on its axis and the poles would 
topple down to the equator,” while Engels thought it would 
be because the planet would cool down. 

These can hardly be regarded as the fruits of scholarly 
minds forced to bow to the truth, however drastic it might ap- 
pear to be. Moreover, these three prophecies cannot all be 
true . 13 

Religion predicts the end of our world too, but only after 
the attainment of its ultimate aim, which also supplies the 
meaning of its history. But socialism (on the principle of the 
similarity of diametrical opposites) attributes the end of man- 
kind to some external accident and thus deprives its whole 
history of any meaning. 

In die near future the leaders of the socialist movements 
will look forward with surprising sangfroid, and occasionally 

13. But in spite of his different arguments, Engels had a high opinion of 
Fourier’s idea that “the whole of humanity is fated to disappear”: “This idea 
of Fourier’s has occupied a similar place in the science of history to that oc- 
cupied in the natural sciences by Kant’s idea of the eventual destruction of 
the globe.” 



even with open satisfaction, to the destruction, if not of all 
mankind, then of the greater part of it. In our time Chairman 
Mao has already stated his conviction that the death of half 
the population of the globe would not be too high a price 
for the victory of socialism throughout the world. Similarly, 
at the beginning of the fourteenth century, for example, the 
leader of the Patarene movement in Italy, Dolcino, predicted 
the imminent destruction of all mankind, relying on the au- 
thority of the prophet Isaiah: “And the remnant will be quite 
small and insignificant.” 

There are many indications that a tendency to self-destruc- 
tion is not foreign to mankind: we have the pessimistic re- 
ligion of Buddhism, which postulates as the ultimate aim of 
mankind its fusion with the Nothing, with Nirvana; the phi- 
losophy of Lao-Tse, in which the ultimate aim is dissolution 
in nonbeing; the philosophical system of Hartmann, who pre- 
dicted the deliberate self-destruction of mankind; the appear- 
ance at various times of scientific and philosophical trends 
setting out to prove that man is a machine, though their 
proofs are in each case completely different and all they have 
in common is their (totally unscientific), urge to establish this 

Finally, the fundamental role of the urge to self-destruction 
has long since been indicated by biology. Thus, Freud con- 
sidered it (under the title of the death instinct, or Thanatos) 
one of the two basic forces which determine man's psychic 

And socialism, which captures and subordinates millions of 
people to its will in a movement whose ideal aim is the death 
of mankind, cannot of course be understood without the as- 
sumption that those same ideas are equally applicable to so- 
cial phenomena, that is, that among the basic forces 
influencing historical development is the urge to self- 
destruction, the human death instinct. 

An understanding of this urge as a force analogous to in- 
stinct also enables us to explain some specific features of so- 
cialism. The manifestations of an instinct are always 
connected with the sphere of the emotions; the performance 


of an instinctive action evokes a deep feeling of satisfaction 
and emotional uplift, and in man a feeling of inspiration and 
happiness. This can account for the attractiveness of the 
socialist world view, that condition of ardor and of spiritual 
uplift, and that inexhaustible energy which can be met in the 
leaders and members of the socialist movements. These 
movements have the quality of infectiousness which is typi- 
cal of many instincts. 

Conversely, understanding, the capacity for learning and 
for intellectual evaluation of a situation, are almost incompat- 
ible with instinctual action. In man the influence of instinct 
as a rule lowers the critical faculty: arguments directed 
against the aims which the instinct is striving to achieve are 
not only not examined but are seen as base and contempt- 
ible. All these features are found in the socialist world view. 

At the beginning of this essay we pointed out that social- 
ism as it were repels rational consideration. It has often been 
remarked that to reveal contradictions in socialist teachings 
in no way reduces their attractive force, and socialist ideolo- 
gists are not in the least scared of contradictions. 

Only in the context of socialism, for instance, could there 
arise in the nineteenth century — and find numerous fol- 
lowers — such a doctrine as Fourier’s in which a basic role is 
played by the notion of the sexual life of the planets (the 
North Pole of the earth, bearer of male fluid, unites with the 
South Pole, bearer of the female fluid). Fourier predicted that 
in the future socialist system the water of the seas and oceans 
would acquire the taste of lemonade, and that the present 
creatures of the sea would be replaced by antiwhales and an- 
tisharks, which would convey cargoes from one continent to 
another at colossal speed . 14 This will seem less surprising, 
however, if we recall that it is only just over two hundred 
years since socialist ideology assumed a rational exterior. 
And it was very recently (on the macrohistorical time scale) 
that socialism, in the form of Marxism, exchanged this exte- 
rior for a scientific one. The brief period of “scientific social- 

14. As Engels said, here “purely Gallic wit combines with great depth of 



ism” is ending before our eyes, the scientific wrapping no 
longer increases the attraction of socialist ideas and socialism 
is casting it off. Thus Herbert Marcuse (in “The End of Uto- 
pia”) says that for the modem “avant-garde Left” Fourier is 
more relevant than Marx precisely because of his greater uto- 
pianism. He calls for the replacement of the development of 
socialism “from utopia to science” by its development “from 
science to utopia.” 

All this shows that the force which manifests itself in so- 
cialism does not act through reason, but resembles an in- 
stinct. This accounts for the inability of socialist ideology to 
react to the results of experience, or, as behaviorists would 
say, its inability to learn. A spider, spinning its web, will 
complete all the six thousand four hundred movements nec- 
essary even if its glands have dried up in the heat and will 
produce no silk. How much more dramatic is the example of 
the socialists, with the same automatism constructing for the 
nth time their recipe for a society of equality and justice: it 
would seem that for them the numerous and varied prece- 
dents which have always led to one and the same result do 
not exist. The experience of many thousands of years is re- 
jected and replaced by cliches from the realm of the irratio- 
nal, such as the claim that all the different socialisms of today 
and yesterday or created in a different part of the globe were 
not the real thing, and that in the special conditions of “our” 
socialism everything will be different, and so on and so forth. 

That is the explanation for the longevity of that mass of 
prejudices and catchphrases surrounding socialism, like the 
identification of socialism with social justice or the belief in 
its scientific character. They are accepted without the least 
verification and take root in people’s minds like absolute 

At our present turning point the depth and complexity of 
the problem facing mankind is becoming increasingly appar- 
ent. Mankind is being opposed by a powerful force which 
threatens its very existence and at the same time paralyzes its 
most reliable tool — reason. 


Contemporary Socioeconomic Systems 
and Their Future Prospects 


Many people believe that there are only two possible socio- 
economic systems — the capitalist one in Western countries 
and the socialist one in Communist countries, and that all 
today’s conflicts merely reflect the contradiction between 
them. This view is mistaken. 

In fact there are perhaps more resemblances than dif- 
ferences between these two systems, the reason being the 
very existence of large-scale industry as the economic base of 

Once it exists, whatever system directs it, large industry 
becomes an active influence on society in its own right. This 
applies particularly to such branches of mass production as 
automobiles, light industry, construction and electronics. 

The first duty of an industry like the automobile industry is 
to satisfy the primary demand for automobiles. Once this 
need has been met, however, the industry faces the danger of 
a decline. This of course is catastrophic, for if there are no or- 
ders, production must stop. The automobile industry must as- 
sure itself of a steady stream of orders to survive. A switch to 
some product other than automobiles is impracticable, first, 
because the industry’s plant is purpose-built for a narrow 
range of products and replacing it would require vast capital 



investment, not to mention replanning the factory, and sec- 
ond, because the production workers possess particular skills 
and would have to be completely retrained. Switching from 
one product to another very different one is obviously all but 
impossible. The vast expenditure involved would make pro- 
duction uneconomic for a long time, and the enterprise 
would also not be able to compete with firms already manu- 
facturing similar goods. Besides, it would be unwise to dis- 
continue the manufacture of automobiles altogether, since 
some residual demand for them would remain and it would 
in any case recover sufficiently once the first generation of 
automobiles was worn out. All this points to a different solu- 
tion to the question, namely, stimulating demand. 

Advertising helps to do this by creating a psychological at- 
mosphere which encourages people to change their au- 
tomobiles long before they are worn out. In the United States 
and other countries the ownership of the latest model is a 
status symbol. Backed by advertising, the automobile in- 
dustry has reached gigantic proportions and has stimulated 
the growth of related industries such as metallurgy, toolmak- 
ing, and so on. Thus the stimulation of demand becomes vital 
to the existence not only of the automobile industry but of 
the entire national economy, since its decline would lead to a 
general economic crisis. 

In his book Future Shock Alvin Toffler enumerates with 
excessive relish other examples of the stimulation of demand 
in various industries by boosting the output of disposables 
and throw-away goods — clothing, bail-point pens, diapers, 
food packaging, and so on. He quotes examples of the short- 
ening of the life-span of dwelling houses so as to increase the 
turnover of the building industry; the built-in obsolescence 
of toys; the pharmaceutical industry’s deliberately reducing 
the useful life of its drugs so as to replace them with new 
ones. A whole new industry has sprung up manufacturing fun 
goods such as badges with pornographic jokes with an ex- 
pected life of only a few days. 

Precisely the same stimulation of consumption is practiced 
in Communist countries as in the West, though the process is 



slower and less efficient. Thus the USSR is being drawn par- 
ticularly strongly into the orbit of consumption. Although the 
need for automobiles is far from being satisfied as yet, at the 
rate new foreign-built factories are going up it can safely be 
assumed that the saturation point is not far off (especially 
considering the inadequacy of the road and service net- 
works). Recent years have seen a revolution in housing and 
furniture in the USSR and we are already replacing the third 
generation of television sets. Fashion, a powerful stimulus to 
the working capacity of light industry, is acquiring more and 
more importance in the economy of the USSR. Under Soviet 
conditions, however, light industry is at a disadvantage, since 
our tastes for a long time now have been set by the West. 
Inflexible Soviet industry, not being the arbiter of Western 
fashion, is unable to keep abreast of it. This results in vast 
surpluses of goods which nobody wants because they have 
gone out of fashion. 

As in the West, various kinds of fashion and leisure prod- 
ucts are acquiring an important role in Communist econo- 
mies, since they stimulate consumption and require 
advanced industrial processes. As in the West, planned obso- 
lescence is widely practiced. Here too disposables are be- 
coming widespread. 

Both systems aim for constant growth in the national prod- 
uct and an equal expansion of consumption. The entire eco- 
nomic — and therefore also social — stability of both systems 
becomes dependent on industry’s always working to capac- 
ity, and the stimulation of demand becomes vital to their ex- 

There are, however, significant differences between the 
two systems. First of all, Communist economies, the USSR’s 
especially, are much less efficient than Western economies. 
This is because the members of the ruling state-monopoly 
corporation have no direct interest in the results of industrial 
performance, their material standard of living being assured 
regardless of the general state of the economy. A similar ten- 
dency is observable in John Kenneth Galbraith’s technostruc- 
tures (as he calls the largest monopolistic conglomerates 



active in the Western economic system). Indeed, some of the 
failings of Communist economies are already beginning to 
become evident in these monopolistic conglomerates. Gal- 
braith asserts that their only aim is survival. But where com- 
petition is open, the survival of such conglomerates depends 
basically on economic factors, which inevitably affects the 
welfare of their members — as P. Sweezy rightly pointed out 
in his review of Galbraith (JSIew York Review of Books, 
1973, No. 18). 1 

Under the economic conditions of communism, however, 
the survival of even such a senior member of the ruling cor- 
poration as a factory manager may be determined solely by 
noneconomic factors, since his appointment and tenure of of- 
fice depend mainly on his relations with the ruling party ap- 
paratus. Given this reciprocal bond even an unsuccessful or 
incompetent manager can maintain his status, if for example, 
he does some favors, even personal favors, for his superiors 
in the corporation. This tendency is reinforced by the cor- 
poration’s caste system, whereby even a failed member is not 
dismissed from the staff but is, as a rule, transferred to some 
other responsible post. 

The absence of proper incentives for all the echelons of 
this corporation makes the technological backwardness of the 
Communist countries inevitable. Yet how can this be recon- 
ciled with the obvious successes of Soviet military technol- 
ogy? The fact is that this success is determined by political, 
not economic, factors, and the resultant vast expenditure on 
the armaments industry and the meticulous quality control of 
military hardware carried out by the military themselves, in- 
dependently of the manufacturing process. If the armaments 
industry’s conditions were applied to civil industry, the So- 
viet budget would collapse under the burden of additional 
expenditure. Also, military production is strictly supervised 
by the government itself. 

The second significant difference between the two systems 

1. See Paul H. Sweezy, review of Economics and the Public Purpose by John 
Kenneth Galbraith in the New York Review of Books, vol. 20, no. 18 (November 
15, 1973). P- 3-— Trans. 



is to be found in the role of competition. Although there is no 
free competition between enterprises in Communist coun- 
tries, since their market is guaranteed, nevertheless competi- 
tion is still extremely important. There is first of all personal 
competition for status among the members of the ruling cor- 
poration, which can be very savage. Second, the Communist 
economy’s pace is set not by internal but by international 
competition, spurred by the urge for survival and expansion, 
considerations of international prestige, and so on. Were it 
not for this competition, Communist economies would be 
doomed to stagnate completely. 

There is one more important difference between the two 
systems. In the West the prices of goods fall as demand rises, 
but in Communist countries the prices of such goods imme- 
diately rise. This increase in prices is due to the absolute mo- 
nopoly of trade which in fact is one of the laws of Communist 
economics and one reason why Communist countries always 
have a lower standard of living than Western countries (al- 
though it is not the sole factor contributing to a lowering of 
the standard of living). 

Another characteristic of Communist economies is that 
they do not allow unemployment. Everybody is afforded the 
minimum means of survival, and in that sense they enjoy 
greater security, although their minimum is much lower than 
that prevailing in advanced Western countries. 

Despite their differences, the two systems are closely in- 
terconnected within the framework of the overall world econ- 
omy. Communist countries, the USSR and China most of all, 
find it hard to compete in world markets with manufactured 
goods because of the low quality of their products. Therefore 
they have turned into exporters of raw materials, importing 
machine tools, consumer goods and even foodstuffs from the 
West in exchange. Besides this, competition between the two 
systems has become one of the most important stimuli of con- 
sumption growth. The West, driven by fear of revolution, 
tries among other things to encourage its entire population to 
consume as much as possible and to raise its standard of liv- 
ing. At the same time the Communist countries, in search of 

7 1 


the prestige essential to their future expansion, strive to 
boost the consumption of their own peoples. 

It is possible to conclude that the Communist economy is 
no more than the next stage in the development of the West- 
ern economic system, where production is concentrated 
solely in the hands of the state. 

Both these systems are profoundly flawed and, unless some 
means of averting it can be found, will swiftly plunge man- 
kind into catastrophe. First of all, both systems are rapacious 
plunderers of the natural resources that alone can maintain 
the hypertrophic growth in consumption that is observable at 
present. Until recently these resources seemed inexhaust- 
ible, but now, particularly in the light of the energy crisis, 
this naive view has been changed. Even earlier it was 
becoming increasingly apparent that natural resources, espe- 
cially soil, water, fuel, air, and so on, were by no means infi- 
nite, and that unfettered growth in consumption would 
inevitably exhaust them far sooner than the natural needs of a 
growing population would. After all, the disappearance of 
just one resource vital to human life, even if all the others 
were plentifully available, would be sufficient to cause a ca- 
tastrophe, for resources are not interchangeable. 

Western countries, the United States especially, are said to 
use up natural resources like a “drunken sailor,” but this 
applies even more to the USSR, where vast resources are 
pointlessly expended as a result of our reigning improvi- 
dence. For example, quantities of smelted metals are either 
thrown out into the street to rust or used in structures that are 
far heavier than necessary. Large quantities of agricultural 
produce are left to rot every year. Vast amounts of fuel are 
pointlessly burned. The senseless waste of Soviet resources 
not only continues but is increasing all the time; it has be- 
come a national habit. 

But the USSR’s resources are quickly being depleted, not 
only for these reasons, but also because it has become the 
largest supplier of raw materials to other countries. It is the 
presence of these vast resources, which the USSR can ex- 



change for machine tools, consumer goods and foodstuffs, 
that allows it to compete with the West and generally support 
a large but inefficient economy. 

It was its timber, ores, furs, and so on, that allowed the 
USSR to industrialize in the 1920s and 1930s when these 
goods were bartered for essential equipment from the United 
States and Germany. The world’s natural resources are per- 
haps adequate to feed the growing population for the fore- 
seeable future, but they are by no means sufficient to feed an 
exaggerated race for consumption. Unless the growth of con- 
sumption is checked, mankind will soon be faced with a criti- 
cal shortage of resources. The symptoms of such a crisis are 
already apparent, but it will deepen further as Asia, Africa 
and Latin America are drawn into the sphere of expanded 

Another incorrigible defect of the existing systems is their 
growing political instability as a result of the West’s increas- 
ing dependence on external commodities markets and 
sources of raw materials, and the Communist countries’ drive 
to expand. The saturation of their own markets leads the 
Western countries to seek new markets indiscriminately, so 
as to keep their industry working. This makes them increas- 
ingly dependent on raw material supplies from other coun- 
tries, for the most part those that possess no manufacturing 
industry of their own. Therefore, if some state poses a threat 
to peace and freedom, business circles, fearing the loss of 
markets or sources of raw material, begin to put pressure on 
their governments to soften their policies toward that state. 
This is why Western countries, despite their own enormous 
potential, are incapable of resisting dictatorships and totali- 
tarian regimes. 

These were the roots of the Munich Agreement of 1938, 
when the leaders of Britain and France, under pressure from 
big business, opened the way to National Socialist aggression 
against the entire world. Earlier the business world had been 
instrumental in bringing about the rebirth of German indus- 
try, which was then used by the Nazis exclusively for mili- 
tary purposes. Western business circles were led to pursue 



this suicidal policy by their constitutional inability to take a 
long-term view of either their national interests or their own 
individual interests, or to make any concessions in the short 

They are doing exactly the same thing now. With the unex- 
pected support of frivolous social-democratic youth groups, 
on whom the word “socialism” displayed by the Eastern 
block (and by the Berlin Wall, too) has a hypnotic effect, 
business circles pressured West Germany’s ruling Social 
Democratic party into elevating the existing status quo in 
Germany to the rank of a juridically accepted fact, in the 
meantime making maximum concessions to the USSR and 
East Germany, which latterly has become the focus of milita- 
rism in Europe. The events leading up to Brandt’s resigna- 
tion showed this eloquently enough. The German 
nation — and mankind as a whole — will pay dearly for the 
actions of these business circles. The West German business- 
men and industrialists, however, have been rewarded with 
free entry to the East European and Soviet markets. 

Another instance of how the selfish interests of business 
circles can conflict with national and world interests is the 
shortsighted policy pursued by French governments under 
de Gaulle, who were prepared to make all kinds of conces- 
sions to any totalitarian regime so long as it was sufficiently 
far away and posed no immediate threat to France. 

The Communist countries, meanwhile, pursue their aims 
of worldwide expansion. At present this manifests itself 
mainly in the Third World, where the USSR and China com- 
pete for the control of countries supplying raw materials. 
Control over those resources would enable them to exert 
pressure on the West. At the same time they are also pursu- 
ing strategic aims. All this displays an irrational thrust for the 
expansion of their influence which K. Witvogel was the first 
to note as characteristic of totalitarian systems. The USSR 
and China stop at nothing to increase their influence in the 
Third World, supporting even the most inhuman regimes and 
provoking armed conflicts, as for instance in the Middle East, 
the Indian subcontinent, and so on. 



Existing political systems are conditioned to a significant 
degree by economics, but political and economic systems are 
by no means synonymous. Political systems can be divided 
into two types according to the criterion of whether civil 
rights are guaranteed or not — democracy and dictatorship, 
the extreme form of which is totalitarianism, imposing on the 
population not only power but also ideology. Communist 
countries are as a rule totalitarian — at least that is how it has 
been to date. 

But dictatorships and totalitarian regimes can exist in the 
West too — for example, totalitarian Nazi Germany and the 
dictatorial regimes of Greece, Haiti, Chile, Uganda, Iraq and 
Libya, to name but a few. 

Therefore the nationalization of production and the ab- 
sence of guarantees for private property are not the only con- 
ditions for the absence of democracy. The real causes are the 
selfish interests of various groups which, given the chance, 
subordinate the rest of the population of the country, al- 
though in Communist countries the absence of democracy is 
the essential prerequisite of their existence. 

Many people believe it to be self-evident that existing 
democratic systems represent some sort of absolute good. 
The intelligentsia of Communist countries, who regard con- 
temporary parliamentary states as ideally free and demo- 
cratic, are particularly prone to this view. But the stumbling 
block to such a view is the question of why so many people 
in these parliamentary states are dissatisfied with them — 
for dissatisfied they undoubtedly are. Powerful left-wing 
movements are rocking such ancient and seemingly stable 
parliamentary states as France and Italy. They accuse these 
states of lacking democracy, of corruption and so forth, while 
paradoxically idealizing precisely those states that defenders 
of parliamentarianism call totalitarian. 

A man who has been accustomed to breathing fresh air all 
his life does not notice it, and never realizes what a blessing 
it is. He thinks of it only occasionally when entering a stuffy 
room, but knows that he need only open the window for the 
air to become fresh again. A man who has grown up in a dem- 



ocratic society and who takes the basic freedoms as much for 
granted as the air he breathes is in much the same position. 
People who have grown up under democracy do not value it 
highly enough. Yet there are weighty reasons for their dissat- 
isfaction with this society. 

In the first place political struggle in a democracy bears the 
essential stamp of totalitarianism — not, of course, of the kind 
prevailing in totalitarian countries, but enough to be irritat- 
ing. In all conscience it is hardly credible that the entire vast 
range of existing philosophies and viewpoints could be con- 
tained in the political programs of two or three main parties. 
But political activity outside these parties, which have taken 
on the form of large bureaucratic organizations, is largely 
pointless, since it requires the spending of a great deal of 
money to achieve any effect. 

The overwhelming majority of voters and politicians ad- 
here to the parties out of conformism, which is reinforced by 
vast propaganda machines, or else for career reasons. The tyr- 
anny of the majority can be oppressive indeed, especially if 
the majority is very little bigger than the minority. How op- 
pressive and pernicious such a tyranny can be has been well 
known since the time of the Athens Republic. 

A parliamentary system guarantees dissenters many per- 
sonal freedoms, but does nothing to shield society from the 
massive propaganda of conformism, which exerts great pres- 
sure on people and is extremely difficult to resist. Let us sup- 
pose there is a religious minority which for reasons of 
conscience does not wish to read pornographic literature, and 
even less to see it in the hands of its children. In a contempo- 
rary democracy such a minority will be unable to live accord- 
ing to its convictions, since the entrepreneur who profits 
from pornographic literature enjoys unlimited freedom to ex- 
ploit any of the mass media for its popularization. This is 
bound to have an effect at least on the children of this minor- 
ity, if not on the adults. 

One of democratic society’s gravest defects is its lack of 
control over the mass media. While this is a good guarantee of 
basic freedoms, the price paid for it is rather high. 


The mass media in today’s democracies are commercial, 
which accounts for their size and their truly astronomical 
circulation figures. The information industry plays a vital role 
in stimulating consumption. It tries to appeal to the widest 
possible range of human perceptions, exploiting the sexual 
urges more and more and transforming them into a force that 
destroys society. 

Furthermore, those who control the mass media, and also 
journalists, can at times become more influential than politi- 
cians. Since in a democracy the mass media enjoy unlimited 
freedom, nobody can put pressure on a publisher or journal- 
ist and have him removed. These people, unlike politi- 
cians or judges, are elected by nobody, yet their real is 

Other democratic freedoms are also being turned inside 
out. The freedom to acquire arms, intended to make life more 
secure, can now make life in countries like the USA more 
dangerous, since weapons can be acquired by people who 
will use them to the detriment of others. 

The freedom to strike, so vital to workers defending their 
rights, can be used by thugs both criminal and political for 
disreputable purposes, such as blackmailing employers. It 
has now become one of the chief sources of inflation. 

Freedom of movement within a country, freedom to enter 
and leave a country, can easily be abused by criminals or by 
hostile totalitarian states for the purposes of espionage and so 

In a modem democratic society life is stressful, and that is 
one reason for the dissatisfaction. This tension makes many 
people who have grown up in democracies envy totalitarian 
countries, where life is much calmer and slower moving, 
where many of the alarms that upset people in the democra- 
cies do not exist. 

Oddly enough, life in totalitarian countries, indeed any life 
under conditions of constraint, does at first sight have some 
attractions. Russians before the abolition of serfdom and the 
Jewish ghettos of the Middle Ages were noted for the mea- 
sured rhythm of their existence: every man knew his station 



in life and his prospects, he did not rebel, he was apparently 
psychologically far more contented than the modem inhabi- 
tant of a democratic country. 

Where there are no freedoms, there is no requirement to 
participate in the political struggle. A man who lives in a to- 
talitarian society is obliged to follow a prescribed political 
line, and so long as he does so — as the majority generally 
do, at least once totalitarianism has been in control for a few 
years — he feels much more secure than if he had to choose 
between conformity and resistance. 

The inhabitant of a totalitarian society is called upon to 
make far fewer decisions than a man living in a democratic 
society. For example, if there is no freedom of movement in a 
totalitarian country, nobody will have to think about where to 
live. If there is no choice of employment, that is another ago- 
nizing choice less. If free competition and free enterprise do 
not exist, there is no need to engage in this competition, 
which many in any case find unendurable. At the same time, 
the inhabitant of a totalitarian state may be much less well off 
than the inhabitant of a democracy, but since his country’s 
overall standard of living is so different, he is perfectly con- 
tent with his situation and secure in his modest future. 

The inhabitant of a totalitarian society is not bothered by 
most of the temptations which would trouble his peace of 
mind in a democracy: the exploitation of sex, for example, 
provided this is prohibited by law. And the same applies to 
the preservation of the family and marriage. 

The inhabitant of a totalitarian country (so long as he is 
loyal) feels far safer than the inhabitant of a democracy, since 
where he lives there is no freedom to acquire or carry 
weapons, police regulations are stricter, and so on. 

Totalitarian regimes limit the flow of disturbing or worry- 
ing news. The media in these countries are as a rule forbid- 
den to report crimes, accidents and natural disasters 
occurring at home (though not in hostile countries). At the 
same time they are instructed to maintain optimism by filter- 
ing out anything that might encourage fears of impending 
world catastrophe, and so forth. 

7 8 


For this reason very many people living in totalitarian 
countries, having survived terror and been brainwashed by 
propaganda, are not only genuinely content with their posi- 
tion, but virtually consider themselves to be the happiest 
people on earth. This, however, engenders an inferiority 
complex vis-a-vis the democracies, so that the inhabitants of 
totalitarian countries often turn into implacable enemies of 
freedom, ready and willing to destroy everything that re- 
minds them of the free will they have lost This also applies 
in many respects to the intellectuals of these countries, who 
often display a pathological fear of freedom. 

So far I have talked about the defects of contemporary de- 
mocracy. But the defects of totalitarianism are of a com- 
pletely different order. Democracy’s faults pale into 
insignificance beside the enormities of totalitarianism, such 
as the deaths of tens of millions of people in Soviet and Ger- 
man death camps and prisons. So long as totalitarianism con- 
tinues to exist, it organically bears the seeds of lawlessness 
within itself although the crimes of the Nazi period in Ger- 
many or 1918-1956 in the USSR cannot, in the nature of 
things, occur often. 

But totalitarian societies are neither eternal nor unshak- 
able. They age and disintegrate under the impact of many 

First of all, in striving to extend their sway over the largest 
possible area, they lose their capacity for effective govern- 
ment, especially such giants as the USSR and China. 

Totalitarian countries are riven by conflicts of various 
kinds — national, social and political. Another important fee- 
tor undermining their stability is the revival of religious con- 
sciousness, the natural enemy of totalitarianism, which lays 
claim to total control of the human spirit All this goes to 
make totalitarian societies short-lived. 

But even the democracies of today are becoming less and 
less stable, and there are forces growing and consolidating 
within them that threaten to bury them altogether. The rea- 
son is that these societies have lost the basic, valuable first 
principles of democracy. The democracies came into being 



and took shape in concrete historical conditions, when their 
populations exercised a high degree of self-discipline based 
on ethics. As the influence of religious values declined, this 
discipline began to diminish, posing a growing threat to dem- 
ocratic society. 

The free sale of arms in the USA in the nineteenth century 
was no threat, but now that the self-discipline which once 
prevented their abuse has been lost, it has become a serious 
menace. A simple prohibition on the sale of weapons would 
accomplish nothing, since vast quantities are already in the 
hands of the public and could be withdrawn only by the 
application of draconian measures unthinkable in a de- 

It goes without saying that the evaluative approach to the 
mass media has also disappeared. We can take as an example 
the extremely sympathetic and well-intentioned journal 
Index , 2 which is devoted to a worldwide struggle against cen- 
sorship. In it there is a regular chronicle recording infringe- 
ments of freedom of the press. Consciously rejecting the 
evaluative approach to censorship, its compilers place facts 
about the tyrannical persecution of any manifestation of in- 
dependent thought in the USSR or Czechoslovakia side by 
side with reports of some mild administrative measure taken 
against a neo-Nazi journalist in West Germany. 

A significant contributory factor to the destabilization of 
the democracies is the ability of totalitarian states to meddle 
unpunished in their internal affairs, while the latter permit 
no shadow of interference in their own. 

The only reason, indeed, why democratic societies still 
exist is that their populations have not yet altogether lost 
their self-control. One may conclude that existing systems, 
from both the economic and the political point of view, are 
possessed of a large quantity of faults, and the superiority of 
one over the other may be regarded simply as the lesser of 
two evils. 

2. Index on Censorship , a quarterly journal published in London by Writers 
and Scholars International Ltd. — Trans. 



Let us now attempt to paint a rough picture of the socio- 
economic system of the future. It will resemble the present 
socioeconomic system of neither West nor East. It would be 
incorrect to call the future society socialist, since this term 
has been devalued many times over by the historical practice 
of the last fifty years. Socialism consciously rejects spiritual 
and moral values, it preaches violence as the means of social 
struggle, thereby arriving at a negation of the concept of so- 
cial justice which it advances. 

Is there a real alternative to the systems of today? Is it pos- 
sible to create a system free from their glaring faults? A just 
and rational system can be built only on a foundation of spiri- 
tual and moral values. And that means that the point of de- 
parture for the solution of social, economic and political 
questions should be the principle of social justice for all and 
the renunciation of violence as a means of solving social 
problems. There should also be a complete renunciation of 
the totally outdated (and never correct) theory of the workers’ 
exercising some sort of hegemony over society, and of the 
ideology that turned out to be nothing but a convenient 
smoke screen for the establishment of totalitarian regimes by 
tiny groups of intellectuals. Workers in Communist countries 
have far fewer rights than in the West. Enormous numbers of 
workers are in any case a specific characteristic only of our 
present systems and in the future, the class of persons perma- 
nently engaged in servicing manufacturing equipment may 
well disappear altogether. 

Violence, as the experience of the Russian and other revo- 
lutions has shown, can only aggravate the faults of the system 
that preceded the revolution. The Marxist theory of the class 
struggle has become not a means of defending the workers’ 
interests but an ideology to justify terror and hegemony over 
them. Marxism has in general become an anachronism, an 
obstacle to further progress, although of course parts of it will 
still have relevance for the future. 

It is essential to eradicate the idea that productivity is the 
yardstick of a society’s progressiveness. The aim of the future 
should not be productivity growth, not the constant rise of 



production and consumption, but the maintenance of produc- 
tivity, production and consumption at the level compatible 
with the restrictions dictated by the interests of society and 
the real level of resources. 

In the economy of the future manufacture should be bro- 
ken down into smaller units, but the units should have an ad- 
vanced scientific and technological base. Enterprises will 
have to be small enough for every employee to understand 
the production process and be genuinely able to participate 
in its management. These enterprises will have to be univer- 
sal, so that they are capable of manufacturing a large variety 
of products. Present knowledge indicates that such installa- 
tions could have great potential. For this they will have to be 
sufficiently productive to be able to manufacture items indi- 
vidually or in short runs. 

The problem of small enterprises is already attracting a 
great deal of attention, especially in the United States. Their 
number is increasing and their importance growing. Accord- 
ing to a survey of metal-processing machinery in the United 
States (American Machinist, 1973, No. 22, pp. 143-149), the 
significance of small manufacturing plants with less than a 
hundred employees has grown considerably. Fifteen percent 
of the eleven million people employed in mechanical engi- 
neering in the United States now work in them, and over 40 
percent of the metal-processing machinery is concentrated in 

There is another problem that demands attention — the 
use of computers to control small enterprises. At present such 
enterprises are limited in what they can perform. But there is 
no doubt that in the near future more sophisticated en- 
terprises will appear on the scene, capable of manufacturing 
complex products on a one-off or short-run basis. Technically 
this is perfectly feasible. With the aid of enterprises of this 
kind, it should be possible to supply most of the consumer 
goods and machinery we require. 

Let us suppose that these enterprises were at the disposal 
of communes or municipalities. Their output would be in- 
tended not for sale or disposal, but for their own use. In that 



case the enterprise would be in action only when the com- 
mune or municipality really needed something from it. With 
a high level of amortization it would not require a great deal 
of the time of those who worked in it, and work there could 
be combined with agricultural labor or intellectual activity. 
Manufacturing in this form would do away with workers as a 
specialized group whose interests were predominantly 
linked with production. 

The abolition of the gulf between physical and intellectual 
labor, as also between industrial and agricultural work, will 
be one of the essential features of the future. That is how the 
ideologist of anarchy. Prince P. Kropotkin, pictured the fu- 
ture. He saw future society as being composed of communes 
where physical labor would be combined with the intellec- 
tual. He thought people could spend part of their time in 
physical labor, producing essential foodstuffs and manufac- 
tured goods. The kibbutzim of Israel approach this ideal to 
some extent, though at present they work mainly for the out- 
side consumer. 

Communes or municipalities with these enterprises at 
their disposal will not, of course, be able to do everything for 
themselves: a certain amount of economic centralization will 
also be necessary. In the first place there will have to be a 
mining industry, unless the problem of resources is to be 
solved in some other way. Second, it will be essential to 
produce the means of production. And third, we will need 
specialized scientific research. 

The mining industry will be much smaller than at present 
because of the sharp fall that will take place in the demand 
for resources. Nevertheless, the extraction of resources will 
require centralized effort. The same applies to the produc- 
tion of the means of production and the pursuit of scientific 
research. Therefore the decentralized economy will have to 
be combined with elements of centralization in areas where 
local groups cannot cope. 

Naturally the total output of manufacturing will be much 
less than in contemporary systems and the productivity of 
labor will also be correspondingly lower. But that will repre- 



sent a major step toward social progress, since both output 
and the productivity of labor will be at the level necessary to 
satisfy the optimum (but not maximum) needs of society. 

This society of the future, while living within the means of 
its real resources, would assure man’s daily needs without 
the monstrous excesses of the contemporary world, and it 
would be stable. But it should be clearly understood that a 
fundamentally decentralized economy of this kind would 
probably be incompatible with the existence of a large urban 
population; either the urban population must greatly de- 
crease in numbers, or the structure of the city must be com- 
pletely changed. 

It would be a great blessing if we could start laying the 
foundations of such a system now within the framework of 
contemporary society. The question of small enterprises has 
been discussed before, and has been opposed by such ad- 
vocates of large-scale industry as John Kenneth Galbraith. He 
asserts that: “The small firm cannot be restored by breaking 
the power of the larger ones. It would require, rather, the 
rejection of the technology which since earliest conscious- 
ness we are taught to applaud. It would require that we have 
simple products made with simple equipment from readily 
available materials by unspecialized labor” (J. K. Galbraith, 
The New Industrial State, Moscow, Progress, 1969, p. 70). 8 
But this is a mistaken view, being based on an incorrect as- 
sessment of the small enterprise’s potential. The very con- 
cept of the small enterprise becomes viable precisely as a 
result of technological progress. Therefore it is most impor- 
tant to overcome the prejudice which states that generalized 
production is always less efficient than specialized produc- 
tion. Technological progress and the decentralization of the 
economy are not incompatible. What is more, when Galbraith 
wrote the lines quoted above, the idea of highly automated 
small enterprises had still not come into being. 

The political structure of future society, to an even greater 
degree than its economy, will have to be founded on spiritual 

3. See John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1967). — Trans. 



and moral values. This must make it totally unlike totalitar- 
ianism, but simultaneously unlike today’s democratic socie- 
ties. The society of the future must be democratic, but first, it 
will need a high degree of self-discipline capable of warding 
off many conflicts, and second, in order to avoid the mistakes 
of the past, some key aspects of social life will have to be 
controlled, though the control must not be of a totalitarian 

A high degree of economic decentralization will inevitably 
lead to political decentralization, preserving democracy at all 
levels of government. The central government should be lim- 
ited to the fulfillment of the most basic functions, such as the 
initiation of legislation and the supervision of its observance, 
the exploitation of natural resources, the directing of large- 
scale scientific research, and so forth. 

We should strive toward the elimination of political parties 
as bureaucratic organizations with their own secretariats, pro- 
paganda channels and finances. The elimination of parties is 
perfectly feasible, first because in a decentralized society the 
central authority will confer no particular privileges, and sec- 
ond because the psychological basis of the political parties 
will also disappear. The contemporary class structure of soci- 
ety, which fuels political antagonism, will disappear, as will 
the so-called intelligentsia (as a social class, not as a spiritual 
entity), since the polarity between physical and mental work 
will also have been eliminated. And this is the base on which 
all parties are built. There will of course always be groups of 
like-minded people who can combine for the pursuit of cer- 
tain common aims. The point is that the creation of special 
bureaucratic organizations with their secretariats, finances, 
and so on, is dangerous to society, whatever views their ad- 
herents propound. 

The center of gravity will shift to the individual small com- 
mune, and everyone will be able to defend his own point of 
view alone or in alliance with others. A man in whom trust is 
reposed at elections will have the opportunity to carry out 
any program without being committed to party discipline. 
Any man will be eligible for election as a deputy, but voting 



must be for him personally and not for the party he repre- 

It is vital that society should take control of the mass 
media. These are at present used for two purposes, the rela- 
tive importance of which depends on the socioeconomic sys- 
tem. In Western countries it is commercial purposes which 
predominate, while in Communist countries it is propaganda. 
Both these uses of the mass media are extremely dangerous. 

The mass media must be freed from their commercial and 
propagandist character. Without their commercial function 
their size will be greatly reduced, if only by the amount of 
advertising. And this will also change their content Cen- 
sorship of the mass media is absolutely indispensable, but it 
should be exercised not by bureaucratic organizations but by 
elected persons. 

In fact the managers of the mass media, like the censors, 
will have to be freely elected in exactly the same way as the 
government and the judiciary and they must be independent 
of the organs of power. The censor is just as important to so- 
ciety as a judge, for example. Perhaps his responsibility is 
even greater than a judge’s, since the moral and spiritual 
health of society will depend on him. Censorship must be 
carried out according to clear and unambiguous terms of ref- 
erence laid down by constitutional statute. Naturally there 
must also be a right of appeal against the censor’s decisions, 
which must in no case be absolute. 

One of the censorship’s particular tasks must be to ensure 
that information about varieties of crime does not turn into a 
cult that glamorizes crime, and that the public should not be 
artificially involved in other people’s family scandals, and 
so on. Incidentally, this sort of information is strictly cen- 
sored in the mass media of totalitarian countries, but there 
the restrictions are demagogic in nature and are intended 
to maintain illusions about the supposed perfection of 

But in order to avoid the restriction of intellectual freedom, 
everybody must be given the opportunity to express his opin- 



ions, even if only for limited circulation, so that, for instance, 
they could be available for consultation in libraries. 

It would be presumptuous to try to fill in the contours of 
the future socioeconomic system in any more detail. Indeed, 
it would be difficult, though others could possibly discern, 
and may still do so, additional essential features overlooked 
here. The establishment of such a system will obviously take 
considerable time, and considerable difficulty will be experi- 
enced on the way. What seems obvious is that any future so- 
cioeconomic system must be built without violence and 
without the unconsidered imposition of stereotypes from 
above. It must be created organically out of existing systems. 

But is this vision of the future only a figment of the imagi- 
nation? Does the surrounding world not suggest the op- 
posite, that the conflicts inherent in contemporary systems 
will only intensify in the future? And would it not be more 
honest to admit it? After all, pessimistic thoughts of this na- 
ture are entertained both by positivists and by religious peo- 
ple with their eschatological view of the world. 

Perhaps it will be as the pessimists believe, but that will 
happen only if mankind completely loses that flame, or even 
that spark that has inspired its best achievements. Those who 
have survived so much and still preserve this spark tend to 
believe that it is inextinguishable. And that gives weighty 
reasons for historical optimism. 


Separation or Reconciliation? 
The Nationalities Question in the USSR 


Of all the urgent problems that have accumulated in our life, 
the most painful seems to be that concerning relations be- 
tween the various nationalities of the USSR. 1 No other ques- 
tion arouses such explosions of resentment, malice and 
pain — neither material inequality, nor lack of spiritual free- 
dom, nor even the persecution of religion. Here are some ex- 

In our Central Asian cities I and many others have often 
heard the cry: “Just wait till the Chinese come, they’ll show 
you what’s what!” This is said as a rule by moderately edu- 
cated people, who cannot be unaware of what the arrival of 
the Chinese would entail for them, if only on the basis of 
what happened to the Kirghizians, who were lucky enough to 
get away after being deprived of all their possessions and 
driven out of China (And the Tibetans, for example, accord- 
ing to the radio, were subjected to mass castrations.) They 
know all this, but they say it all the same. Evidently the pitch 
of emotion is more powerful even than the instinct of self- 
preservation, as in the western Ukraine in 1941, when de- 
tachments of the Ukrainian Nationalist Union harried the re- 

1. There are fifteen union republics and over a hundred different national- 
ities in the USSR.— Trans. 



treating Soviet forces, and their officers made deals with the 
Germans, although they could not have failed to foresee, on 
the basis of the experience of the Poles, what in fact actually 
happened six weeks later — the arrest of the entire officer 
corps and the liquidation of most of the detachments. 

One gets the same impression when one compares the 
treatment of the national question in samizdat with that of 
other seemingly no less burning problems — the fate of those 
imprisoned in the labor camps, for instance, or the incarcer- 
ation of the sane in mental hospitals. It is noticeable that the 
authors of the vast majority of samizdat works voluntarily 
keep within certain limits, observe certain self-imposed re- 
straints; they do not incite hatred or envy of the better off, or 
advocate violence. It seems that certain lessons of the past 
have been so thoroughly assimilated that they have set un- 
shakable new standards of thought. 

Yet when the nationalities question comes up these taboos 
evaporate. One finds indignant descriptions of one people 
living better than another, or, if they live worse, still receiv- 
ing more than they have earned. Samizdat-published 
schemes for the resolution of the nationalities question 
usually include demands for the forcible resettlement of 
various populations and transparent hints that even harsher 
measures would be in order. One is left with the impression 
that, when writing about this area, the authors on the con- 
trary tend to forget everything the past has taught us. 

Suspicion and friction between nations is not an exclu- 
sively Soviet tendency — one sees it the world over. And we 
can try to understand our own problems only if we recognize 
them as local manifestations of natural laws common to all 

The twentieth century was not expected to be the century 
of unprecedentedly extreme nationalism. In the last century 
it was generally agreed that the national problem was wither- 
ing away, that the smaller nations would slowly merge into 
the larger, that the differences between the large nations 
would gradually diminish, and that in the not too distant fu- 
ture mankind would fuse in worldwide unity, perhaps even 



all speaking one language. The exact opposite has turned out 
to be the case. Countries that have lived for centuries in na- 
tional accord have been engulfed by national enmities. Un- 
suspected varieties of nationalism have appeared on the 
scene — Breton, Walloon and Welsh, for example. Enmity 
between peoples has reached an unprecedented peak of mu- 
tual hatred, leading to the extermination of whole peoples, as 
in the Nigerian civil war. 

That was not the nineteenth century’s only miscalculation, 
not the only case where the dominant ideology of the time 
was diametrically opposed to the future whose foundations it 
laid. At that time it seemed that man was faced with the clear 
prospect of constructing a life increasingly based on the prin- 
ciples of humanitarianism, respect for the rights of the indi- 
vidual, and democracy. Russia seemed to be blocking the 
road of progress precisely because she was insufficiently lib- 
eral and democratic internally. Dostoyevsky alone, ap- 
parently, felt in his bones that the world would suffer quite a 
different fate. 

The actual historic role of the twentieth century, as it 
turned out, was to put large parts of mankind in thrall to an 
ideology that pursued the maximum suppression of the indi- 
vidual. Socialism, which had existed for centuries as a theory, 
started to materialize in the form of socialist states. This pro- 
cess has continued in fits and starts throughout the twentieth 
century, expanding with almost monotonous regularity, and 
there is no reason to suppose it has ended yet. We should 
bear this basic twentieth-century trend in mind when seek- 
ing to understand the national question, both in our own 
country and in the world as a whole. 

At the beginning of the twentieth century the picture of the 
world was defined by the roles played in it by the “great 
powers” — the strongest states, led by peoples inspired by 
the belief that they were destined to play a special role in the 
world. In this situation socialist movements had the choice of 
two strategies: either to exploit these great nations’ aspira- 
tions, their faith in their own mission, or else to suppress 
those aspirations. Both strategies were tried. Experience 



showed that although it could be useful to exploit national 
feelings to buttress the stability of an existing socialist state 
(especially in times of grave crisis and war), when it came to 
the seizure of power and drawing fresh nations into the so- 
cialist ideology, there was incomparably more to be gained 
from whipping up the ideology of antinationalism, especially 
when it was directed against the large nations and accom- 
panied by a certain encouragement of patriotism among 
smaller peoples. This strategy, therefore, became the basic 
weapon of Marxist-oriented socialist movements, whose 
fundamental ideology was internationalism, the denial and 
destruction of patriotism, and the doctrine of the division of 
nations into two hostile cultures. This philosophy, so foreign 
to the spirit of states possessing a strong national and espe- 
cially religious identity, helped to destroy them, and itself 
gathered strength as these states underwent periods of crisis. 
Whichever was cause and whichever effect, it is obvious that 
we have here two manifestations of a single process. 

The Russian Empire, standing on a foundation of Ortho- 
doxy, was the first to fall victim to this process; then Austria- 
Hungary, with its thousand-year-old roots in the Holy Roman 
Empire. A quarter of a century later came the end of Greater 
Germany as a single, united state. And even among the vic- 
tors, the British Empire soon ceased to exist. 

All these political catastrophes were accompanied by vi- 
cious ideological attacks on the leading peoples in those 
countries and on their claim to a special historic mission. For 
example, in postwar (that is, post-Second World War) Ger- 
many their whole literature set itself the aim of demon- 
strating to the German people its sinfulness and ineradicable 
guilt before all mankind. On both the individual and the na- 
tional level, repentance is one of the most uplifting emotions 
of the spirit, and the Germans certainly had plenty to repent. 
But repentance loses its point when purification is carried 
out with no higher end in view: then it becomes an act of 
spiritual suicide. We Russians know only too well how this 
theme of an “accursed past” can deprive a nation of its his- 
tory! And there would seem to be a certain symbolism in the 



close personal ties that exist between the German writers of 
this penitent generation and the politicians who seek to per- 
suade the Germans that the greatest service they can do the 
world is to reconcile themselves forever to the perpetual di- 
vision of their country, in other words, accept the death of 
the German nation. 

Finally, in the USA the savage anti-Vietnam War campaign 
was scarcely inspired by heightened moral sensitivity or a 
greater sense of responsibility. If it was, why did the geno- 
cide of the entire Ibo nation in Nigeria, which led to more 
deaths than the whole Vietnam War, pass almost unre- 
marked? Even some leading antiwar figures openly admitted 
that the war was not the real issue. “End the Vietnam War, 
and we’ll find something else to protest about,’’ as one of 
them said. One gets the impression that what the protesters 
were really attacking was America’s claim to a special world 
role, the sense of being a great nation, which has still not 
abandoned the Americans. 

Whenever great empires have crumbled, national con- 
sciousness has always sharpened in the separate nations com- 
posing them and ethnic groups have separated out and 
aspired to recognition as independent states. Here again, 
cause and effect are inseparable. National separatism both 
acted as a force for the destruction of the old empire and si- 
multaneously expanded to fill the vacuum created in people’s 
hearts by the destruction of the sense of imperial unity and a 
unifying purpose. A similar dual trend is increasingly appar- 
ent in the twentieth century: both the destruction of great 
states ruled by a national idea, and the fission of mankind 
into ever smaller national units. 

It seems to me that if we look at the situation in this light, 
we have some hope of understanding why the national ques- 
tion is particularly explosive in our country, for the present 
relationships between the nationalities are the consequence 
of contradictory historical processes. On the one hand, the 
separation out of the different nations and their drive for 
maximum possible independence have coincided with the 



subordination of all life to socialist ideology. These processes 
have been so inextricably intertwined that in many cases it 
has been impossible to distinguish between the manifesta- 
tions of one and the manifestations of the other. For example, 
tendencies toward non-Russian separatism were first deliber- 
ately encouraged as a counterweight to Russian patriotism, 
but then were treated as the greatest menace. On the other 
hand, these nationalist aspirations soon came into conflict 
with socialist ideology’s deepest-rooted tenets — hostility to 
the very idea of nationhood and the drive to suppress both 
the idea itself and the individual human personality. 

In this way the national life of many peoples has fallen vic- 
tim to that very force — socialist ideology — that not so long 
ago assisted and encouraged them to develop a system of 
views expressing an intolerant, radical nationalism. So 
deeply has this ideology penetrated the national outlook and 
so strong is its imprint that those who argue from national 
positions can hardly be persuaded that ideology, of all things, 
is the root cause of their misfortunes. 

This has given rise to the concept — which I consider fun- 
damentally erroneous — underlying practically every study 
of the national question in our country known to me (I refer, 
of course, only to uncensored literature). This concept is a 
very simple one: All the problems of the non-Russian peo- 
ples are due in the long run to Russian oppression and the 
drive for Russification. The regions inhabited by these na- 
tions are Russian colonies. These peoples therefore have a 
clear task before them : to rid themselves of Russian colonial 

This theory has quite understandable attractions. It 
squeezes a complicated problem into the framework of a few 
simple and universally acceptable propositions. It is gener- 
ally agreed that colonialism is the disgrace of the twentieth 
century and that colonies should become independent as 
soon as possible. Therefore all you need do is acquire “colo- 
nial” status in the eyes of the world and you are at once 
guaranteed the automatic support of colossal forces. And this 
means you can also offer your people an extremely clear and 



simple way forward. But primitively simple solutions to com- 
plex problems do not exist! We must be careful to verify the 
basic premise — that non-Russian peoples of the USSR are 
the colonial subjects of the Russian people — not only to dis- 
cover the truth, but also because a conclusion based on a 
false premise cannot prove a reliable guide for the peoples 
who propose it. 

The arguments generally used to demonstrate the non-Rus- 
sian peoples’ dependent and colonial status in the USSR do 
at first appear to carry conviction. The commonest are as 

(1) Great riches are extracted from the territory inhabited 
by non-Russians and go to enrich the Russian-inhabited part 
of the USSR. 

(2) The density of the indigenous populations is declining; 
they are being diluted. Two reasons are given: the deporta- 
tion of indigenous populations (in the past) and the immigra- 
tion of large numbers of Russians (now). Russians come as 
workers in the new industrial enterprises, which are often 
created for no good economic reason and are irrelevant to the 
development of the particular region. 

(3) National cultures are suppressed. Distinctive national 
tendencies in art are prohibited and their manifestations pun- 
ished. History is compulsorily rewritten so as to belittle the 
people’s national identity. Historical relics are destroyed in- 
stead of preserved, ancient cities and streets are given new 
names unrelated to the nation’s past. 

(4) National religions are suppressed. 

(5) The national languages are increasingly superseded by 

However, these arguments take on a different aspect if we 
ask: could they not be applied to the Russian people as well? 
Let us examine them in order. 

(1) As some studies of the national question show, the Rus- 
sian people enjoys a lower standard of living than many other 
peoples — the Georgians, Armenians, Ukrainians, Latvians 
or Estonians. 

Sometimes this is explained away as characteristic of a pe- 



culiar kind of colonialism — Russian-type colo nialism. Is this 
not an attempt to blind us to the basic contradiction with new 
terminology? It seems obvious to me that this is a general 
phenomenon: an enormous part of the wealth produced by 
all the nations is not returned to them. It is easy enough to 
guess where it goes: on the maintenance of a vast military 
machine and civil bureaucracy, on space exploration, on aid 
to revolutionary movements in Asia, Africa and Latin 
America, and most of all on making good the shortcomings of 
the economy. 

(2) Few, if any, would maintain that in the past — during 
collectivization, for example — the Russians were less sub- 
ject to deportation than other peoples. As for the present day, 
attention should be drawn to a universal cause — the dispro- 
portionate development of the economy based on no nation’s 
interest. In this cause masses of Russians and non-Russians 
are uprooted and diverted from their national tasks. While 
documents written by Ukrainians complain of Russian migra- 
tion into the Ukraine, Estonians and Latvians complain, not 
only of floods of Russians settling in their lands, but of floods 
of Ukrainians too. 

(3) The suppression of Russian national culture began at a 
time when other nations were still being actively encouraged 
to assert their national identity. Many samizdat studies of the 
national question still accuse the Russians of “great power 
chauvinism.” But when this term was invented, more than 
half a century ago, it amounted to nothing less than an invita- 
tion to stamp out any manifestation of Russian national con- 

In the last century, long before the state took a hand, all- 
powerful liberal public opinion declared Russian patriotism 
to be reactionary, a disgrace to Russians and a menace to ev- 
erybody. And to this very day Russian national consciousness 
lives under unwinking, hostile surveillance, like a trans- 
ported criminal under police supervision. Here is a recent 
dire warning. A group of anonymous authors published a 
sequence of interconnected articles, an anthology almost, in 
No. 97 of the Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Studenches- 



kogo Dvizhenia ( Herald of the Russian Student Christian 
Movement ). 2 The Latin word forming the first article’s title, 
and that which was meant to attract the reader at first glance 
in all the articles, was a call to Russia to repent. And which, 
of all Russia’s transgressions, did the authors consider the 
most heinous? The belief, it turns out, that Russia has a his- 
toric mission, that she too has something of her own, a new 
word, to offer the world; or, as the authors put it, “Russian 
messianism.” This is the sin they call on Russians to repent; 
this, they say, should be Russia’s main aim in the future. 
Their own stated aim is so to change the nation’s conscious- 
ness that it dare not imagine its life has some aim! What 
other nation has ever been subjected to such sermons? 

Several generations of Russians have been brought up on 
such a horrendous version of Russian history that all they 
want to do is to try and forget we ever had a past at all. Russia 
was the “gendarme of Europe” and the “prison of the peo- 
ples,” its history consisted of “one defeat after another” and 
was always characterized by one and the same phrase: “the 
accursed past.” 

Even the broom of new names that has swept away every- 
thing linking us with our past has scarcely affected another 
people more cruelly than the Russian. Let me suggest a sim- 
ple experiment for those who wish to try it: get on a bus pass- 
ing through the center of Moscow and listen to the names of 
the stops as the driver calls them out. It will immediately 
strike you that streets retaining their old, original names are 
rare exceptions — it is as if some brush had painted out all 
reminders of the fact that the Russian people once had a 

(4) Similarly with the suppression of religion. The Russian 
Orthodox Church was suffering its first blows while Islam, 
for example, was still being handled with kid gloves. In this 
first push, indeed, an important role was assigned to the ex- 
ploitation of the religious politics of other nations: for ex- 
ample, an independent, autocephalous Georgian church was 
2. Published in Russian by the Y.M.C.A. Press in Paris. — Trans. 


set up, and attempts were made to create a similar church in 
the Ukraine. 

(5) It is only with the fifth and last of the above arguments 
that one cannot disagree: all this activity is indeed taking 
place mainly in the Russian language, as the state language 
of the USSR. But what do the Russians gain from that? 

Other painful features of national life are also worth men- 
tioning — above all, the catastrophic decline of the village, 
which has always been the mainstay of national identity. But 
in this respect too the Russians have suffered no less than 
other peoples. 

I think the theory of “Russian colonialism” is not only un- 
fair to the Russians but also erroneous in fact, and therefore 
damaging to the other peoples by impeding a proper under- 
standing of their own national life. In fact, the basic features 
of national life in the USSR are a direct result of the hege- 
mony in our country of socialist ideology. This ideology is 
the enemy of every nation, just as it is hostile to individual 
human personality. It is able to exploit the aspirations of 
this or that people temporarily, for its own purposes, but its 
fundamental trend is toward the maximum destruction of all 
nations. The Russians no less than others are its victims ; in- 
deed, they were the first to come underfire. 

If we accept this view of how the nations came to their 
present pass, we must correspondingly adjust our practical at- 
titude to present problems. Since the blame for the present 
situation cannot be laid at one people’s door, it follows that to 
a certain extent all the peoples are to blame. This seems a 
more constructive view to me, since it frees our minds from 
bondage to external causes, over which we generally have no 
control, and instead concentrates them on causes hidden 
within ourselves, over which by definition we have much 
more control. A similar dilemma confronts the individual: is 
the fundamental course of his life determined by external 
factors (material circumstances, social environment, and so 
on), or is it inherent in himself? In the final analysis the 



question is one of free will. The same question confronts the 
nation. But if one acknowledges the preeminence of inner 
causes, if one acknowledges that a nation’s fate is determined 
more by its own actions and outlook on life than by external 
factors, then it follows that the inner causes will not be 
changed by simply breaking with the Russians. In other 
words, once the concept of “colonization” has been ex- 
ploded, the concept of “decolonization” also needs rethink- 
ing. All I mean by this is that we must rid ourselves of certain 
habits of thought, of the unverifiable and undebatable con- 
viction that breaking away from the Russians and creating 
one’s own state is the automatic solution to all the problems 
of every nation. I think I see here a profound analogy with 
the position of those Russian intellectuals who gave in to the 
temptation to take a novel — and for us quite new and un- 
usual — way out of their situation by emigrating. In both 
cases there is an underlying wish to “escape from your own 
shadow” — to solve by external means problems that are es- 
sentially within. 

We have all had a hand in creating the problems that now 
confront us: the Russian Nihilists, the Ukrainian “Borot- 
bists,” 3 the Latvian riflemen 4 and many others have each 
done their bit. How can we hope, separately, to disentangle 
the knot that we all helped to tighten? 

Our forefathers unanimously declared Russia to be the 
“prison of the peoples,” adding the words of their favorite 
battle cry: “. . . we’ll raze it to the ground, and after that 
. . The razing of the “prison of peoples” was a phenome- 

nal success, but after that . . . After that, for example, a group 
of Estonian nationalists has written to the United Nations, 
claiming that the very existence of the Estonian nation is 
threatened. And they called for the final rupture of all rela- 
tions with the peoples of the USSR, the expulsion of Rus- 

3. “Borotbists” was the name of a Ukrainian Communist party at the time of 
the October revolution which was allied with the Bolsheviks. In later years 
it was disbanded and most of its surviving leaders executed. — Trans. 

4. A reference to the Latvian rifle regiments of the tsarist army which went 
over to Lenin during the October revolution and actively supported the 
Bolsheviks against rival factions and later the Whites. — Trans. 



sians and Ukrainians from Estonia and the stationing of UN 
troops there. Has history not taught us at least this, that it is 
hardly the height of political wisdom to throw away cen- 
turies-old alliances like useless trash, and that it is necessary 
to begin, not by razing to the ground, but rather by changing 
and improving ? 

A common history has welded the nations of our land 
together. The experience it has endowed us with is unique in 
the world, no other peoples possess it. Strange as it may 
sound, in many respects we are now immeasurably further 
along the historical road than many peoples we are in the 
habit of only “catching up with.” The phase in which West- 
ern Europe and the USA now find themselves is remarkably 
reminiscent of the “Nihilist” era in Russia, that is, the period 
of a hundred years ago. Our experiences and suffering lay a 
moral obligation on us. We are now able to perceive and tell 
the world things that nobody else can tell: this is where I see 
the historic mission of the peoples that inhabit what was 
once Russia and is now the Soviet Union. They can point the 
way out of the labyrinth in which mankind is now lost. And 
this is the only way in which any of our peoples can influ- 
ence the fate of mankind and hence their own fate. Each peo- 
ple must of course consult its own conscience and decide 
whether to take this mission upon itself. No nation must be 
judged or condemned for deciding one way or the other. But 
I trust it would not be regarded as tactless interference if I 
express my own opinion on this question, which is one that 
vitally affects us all. 

Why is it thought that different peoples cannot live within 
the bounds of a single state of their own free will and to the 
benefit of all? If they cannot, surely one is entitled to doubt 
that different individuals can do so. Recent decades, it is 
true, have shown a tendency toward the formation of ever 
smaller states, but this by no means proves that this trend is 
correct. The small and minuscule states that have appeared 
in recent times are too weak: they are doomed in all possible 
respects to become dependents and hangers-on of larger 
states. They can acquire power only by acting together, sub- 



ordinating their individuality to a common purpose, and 
always choosing the course of action that will offend no- 
body — in other words, the most trivial. That is the origin of 
mob rule by nations, a spectacle we are witnessing in the 
United Nations at the moment. But the process is still only in 
its infancy. At present there are about two thousand nations 
in the world, but only some one hundred and fifty states. If 
the trend toward nation-states continues, the existing states 
will have to be broken down by a factor of ten or more. But 
even the formation of pocket-handkerchief states brings no 
relief from familiar troubles: we see that they are plagued by 
the same sores of international and intertribal strife. Yet this 
is the ideal solution propounded in many a samizdat study of 
the national question. One of them even suggested the inter- 
esting idea that there is nothing to prevent any village declar- 
ing itself a state. It is worth thinking this idea through in 
earnest and trying to picture such a “state.” Who will supply 
it with the simplest agricultural machinery and electric light, 
where will it find its teachers and doctors? And what if all 
mankind follows this happy example and splits itself up into 
villages? One has only to imagine it and it becomes clear 
how much the author of this theory is prepared to sacrifice for 
the sake of universal separatism. 

There is nothing to indicate the necessity of dismembering 
states into national atoms. On the contrary, different peoples 
in cooperation can give birth to a culture of a higher quality 
than any of them in isolation. However large the nation, its 
culture acquires a new dimension it would not otherwise 
have. And the geniuses of small nations achieve worldwide 
significance, something that would be impossible unless they 
were part of a more powerful kindred culture, as the Scots- 
man Walter Scott was of the greater English culture. But the 
most vivid illustration comes from our own culture — I refer, 
of course, to Gogol. Great as his genius was, I do not think he 
could have blossomed so profoundly or attained such a pin- 
nacle of human achievement had he not been enriched by 
Russian culture. And his influence on mankind would have 
been negligible if all Russian culture had not been illumi- 



nated with his light. Similarly with Shevchenko: 5 his prose 
in Russian demonstrates his desire to be a Russian as well as 
a Ukrainian writer. 

I believe this path is not closed to the peoples of our coun- 
try, but finding it will not be at all easy. It will require much 
effort and goodwill, and changes in our usual attitudes. It 
would be a great pity if readers were to think that I am ad- 
vocating this effort for the non-Russian peoples only; in many 
respects it is precisely the Russians who ought to be breaking 
their old habits. 

I do not think Russians suffer from the national arrogance 
that Western Europeans display in their relations with their 
Eastern neighbors and even more toward non-Europeans. 
Russians mix easily with other peoples and often place too 
low a value on their own culture. 

But power-mania is the vice of every great nation and is 
not at all foreign to the Russians. If a large country’s armies 
are unloosed against a small neighbor, and if they success- 
fully carry it off, then the overwhelming majority of the popu- 
lace feels pride and satisfaction — this has unfortunately 
been the psychology of many nations for centuries past, and 
the Russians are no exception. But if we want to preserve 
even the shadow of a hope of living side by side in one state 
with our present neighbors, we cannot permit ourselves this 
any more. And therefore when the journal Veche (As- 
sembly) 6 begins its existence by describing Skobelev’s 7 con- 
quests in Central Asia, as if the most important wars in our 
history were those that subjugated other peoples, it looks like 
some sort of deliberate provocation. 

But in our attitude to other nations there is another vice 

5. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), the most famous Ukrainian poet and 
writer, who was exiled for his criticisms of the tsarist government’s social 
and national policies. — Trans. 

6. A samizdat, or clandestine journal, that appeared in the Soviet Union 
from January 1971 until early 1974 and took a strongly Russian nationalist 
line.— T rans. 

7. Mikhail Skobelev (1843-1882), a Russian army officer, one of the con- 
querors of Turkistan and a prominent commander in the Russo-Turkish 
war. — Trans. 



that is typically Russian: the inability to see the line that 
divides us from other nations, the lack of inner conviction in 
their right to exist within their own national identity. How 
often have I heard Russians wondering naively why the 
Ukrainians, Byelorussians or Lithuanians won’t learn proper 
Russian and turn into proper Russians. All the jokes, mockery 
and tactless puns on the Ukrainian language have their root 
in an unwillingness to recognize the Ukrainians as a separate 
nation and in a failure to understand why these “Russians” 
so strangely distort our language. 

This may be due to a perversion or misunderstanding of 
our natural sense of equality, for we tend to think of all these 
people as our equals and immediately (without consulting 
them) class them as Russians. But it is easy to understand 
how other peoples, especially small ones, are horrified and 
infuriated by the sight of the immense Russian tide advanc- 
ing on them, ready to swallow them up without a trace. 

Most animals capable of killing their own kind are en- 
dowed by nature with inhibitions which make such killings 
impossible: no wolf can tear open the throat of another wolf 
vanquished in battle, no raven can peck out the eye of an- 
other raven. Neither men nor nations are equipped with the 
same inhibitions; they can instill them only by a process of 
spiritual development. This is the task facing the Russian 
people. We cannot count on our neighbors for sympathy, or 
even absence of hostility, unless we can not only see the Es- 
tonians, for example, as people equal to ourselves in every 
respect, but also realize how much our life has been enriched 
by the proximity of this small, courageous people, who are 
prepared to make any sacrifice other than renounce their 
national individuality. 

Is the picture I have endeavored to paint here a feasible 
one? I very much want to hope it is, but to be honest I am not 
sure it will work out. There is too much deep-seated resent- 
ment and perhaps too little time left to neutralize it. And 
perhaps the national question is the most distressing one 
simply because it is the most difficult — it demands that such 



complexly organized and individual entities as nations 
should learn to live together without losing their individ- 
uality. And perhaps we should be looking for other, less obvi- 
ous ways of solving it. 

But of one thing I am convinced: this question is insoluble 
unless we renounce our ingrained prejudices and what Do- 
stoyevsky called “shortcuts to thought.” It is insoluble on a 
basis of hatred and mutual recrimination and these must be 
abandoned. To this end we must endeavor to change habits 
that have been built up over decades and centuries, trans- 
forming the forces of repulsion into forces of attraction. This 
is essential not at all simply in order to try to preserve the 
links that exist between our country’s peoples; everyone with 
a responsible attitude toward the destiny of his own people, 
however he regards its future, should feel bound to exert 
every effort in the same direction. 

Some affinity of outlook and a certain ability to understand 
one another are essential, not only in order to be able to live 
together, but also in order to be able to part company. 

As V. Maklakov 8 once intriguingly put it: nationalists gen- 
erally demand plebiscites, believing that so long as the ma- 
jority in their region plump for secession, they should be 
granted independence. In other words, they believe the 
question can be settled by a majority vote in their region, al- 
though they are, of course, a minority in the state as a whole. 
Conversely, their will, which is a minority one in the state as 
a whole, is supposed to prevail, while the minority in their 
own region, who oppose secession, must bow to the majority. 

Of course there can come a moment in the history of na- 
tions when all spiritual links are broken and living together 
in one state only exacerbates mutual animosity. But Makla- 
kov’s idea strikes me as an interesting paradox, which dem- 
onstrates, by taking a logical conclusion to absurdity, that 
neither plebiscites nor the introduction of United Nations 
forces can solve the delicate and organic problems facing the 

8. V. A. Maklakov (1870-1957) was a leading member of the Constitutional 
Democratic party (“Cadets”) before the October revolution. In 1938 he pub- 
lished his memoirs, The First State Duma.— Trans. 



nations of today. Whatever the ultimate solution may be, the 
only healthy path to it is through the rapprochement of peo- 
ples. The only alternative that remains is the path of force, 
along which each solution is doomed to be only temporary 
and to lead inexorably to the next, even graver crisis. 

There are, at least, real grounds for hope that in many re- 
spects the lessons of the past have not been totally wasted on 
our peoples. Our experience has inoculated us against many 
temptations — but not all. Class hatred can probably never 
again light the flame that engulfs our house in time of trou- 
ble — but national hatred easily could. We can feel its warn- 
ing tremors already, and they enable us to judge how 
destructive it could be once it erupted onto the surface. We 
must not be so naive as to suppose that any man could direct 
this elemental force into acceptable channels — the forces of 
hatred and violence are subject to their own laws and always 
consume those who unleash them. 

And who can say which nations will survive yet another 
cataclysm, perhaps more terrible than any they have been 
obliged to endure so far? 

Herein lies the last reason for the extreme acuteness of the 
national question — it may well become a question of the 
continued existence of our peoples. 


Repentance and Self-Limitation 
in the Life of Nations 



The Blessed Augustine once wrote: “What is the state 
without justice? A band of robbers.” Even now, fifteen cen- 
turies later, many people will, I think, readily recognize the 
force and accuracy of this judgment. But let us note what he 
is about: an ethical judgment about a small group of people is 
applied by extension to the state. 

It is in our human nature to make such judgments: to apply 
ordinary, individual, human values and standards to larger 
social phenomena and associations of people, up to and in- 
cluding the nation and the state as a whole. And many in- 
stances of this transference can be found in writers through 
the ages. 

The social sciences, however, and particularly the more 
modem of them, strictly forbid such extensions of meaning. 
Only economic, statistical, demographic, ideological, to a 
lesser extent geographical, and — very dubiously — psycho- 
logical procedures are held to guarantee the serious 
scientific character of research into society and the state, 
while the evaluation of political life by ethical yardsticks is 
considered totally provincial. 



Yet people do not cease to be people just because they live 
in social agglomerations, nor do they lose the age-old human 
impulses and feelings — we all know the spectrum; all they 
do is express them more crudely, sometimes keeping them in 
check, sometimes giving them free rein. It is hard to under- 
stand the arrogant insensitivity of the modem trend in the 
social sciences: why are the standards and demands so neces- 
sarily and readily applied to individuals, families, small 
groups and personal relations, rejected out of hand and ut- 
terly prohibited when we go on to deal with thousands and 
millions of people in association? The arguments in favor of 
such an extension are certainly no weaker than those for de- 
ducing the complex psychological delusions of societies from 
crude economic processes. The barrier against transference 
of values is in any case lower where the principle itself un- 
dergoes no transformation, where we are not being asked to 
beget the living upon the dead, but only to project the self 
onto larger quantities of human beings. 

The transference of values is entirely natural to the re- 
ligious cast of mind: human society cannot be exempted from 
the laws and demands which constitute the aim and meaning 
of individual human lives. But even without a religious foun- 
dation, this sort of transference is readily and naturally made. 
It is very human to apply even to the biggest social events or 
human organizations, including whole states and the United 
Nations, our spiritual values: noble, base, courageous, cow- 
ardly, hypocritical, false, cruel, magnanimous, just, unjust, 
and so on. Indeed, everybody writes this way, even the most 
extreme economic materialists, since they remain after all 
human beings. And clearly, whatever feelings predominate 
in the members of a given society at a given moment in time, 
they will serve to color the whole of that society and deter- 
mine its moral character. And if there is nothing good there 
to pervade that society, it will destroy itself, or be brutalized 
by the triumph of evil instincts, no matter where the pointer 
of the great economic laws may turn. 

And it is open to every one of us, whether learned or not, 
to choose — and profitably choose — not to evade the exami- 



nation of social phenomena with reference to the categories 
of individual spiritual life and individual ethics. 

We shall try to do this here with reference to only two such 
categories: repentance and self-limitation. 


Whether the transference of individual human qualities to 
society is easy or difficult in a general way, it is immensely 
difficult when the desired moral quality has been almost 
completely rejected by individual human beings themselves. 
This is the case with repentance. The gift of repentance, 
which perhaps more than anything else distinguishes man 
from the animal world, is particularly difficult for modem 
man to recover. We have, every last one of us, grown 
ashamed of this feeling; and its effect on social life anywhere 
on earth is less and less easy to discern. The habit of repen- 
tance is lost to our whole callous and chaotic age. 

How then can we transfer to society and the nation that 
which does not exist on the individual level? Perhaps this ar- 
ticle is premature or altogether pointless? We start, however, 
from what seems to us beyond doubt: that true repentance 
and self-limitation will shortly reappear in the personal and 
the social sphere, that a hollow place in modem man is ready 
to receive them. Obviously then the time has come to con- 
sider this as a path for whole nations to follow. Our under- 
standing of it must not lag behind the inevitable devel- 
opment of self-generating governmental policies. 

We have so bedeviled the world, brought it so close to self- 
destruction, that repentance is now a matter of life and 
death — not for the sake of a life beyond the grave (which is 
thought merely comic nowadays), but for the sake of our life 
here and now and our very survival on this earth. The end of 
the world, so often foretold by the prophets only to be post- 
poned, has ceased to be the particular property of mystics 
and confronts us as sober reality, scientifically, technically 
and psychologically warranted. It is no longer just the danger 



of a nuclear world war — we have grown used to that and can 
take it in our stride. But the calculations of the ecologists 
show us that we are caught in a trap: either we change our 
ways and abandon our destructively greedy pursuit of prog- 
ress, or else in the twenty-first century, whatever the pace of 
man’s development, we will perish as a result of the total 
exhaustion, barrenness and pollution of the planet. 

Add to this the white-hot tension between nations and 
races and we can say without suspicion of overstatement that 
without repentance it is in any case doubtful if we can 

It is by now only too obvious how dearly mankind has paid 
for the fact that we have all throughout the ages preferred to 
censure, denounce and hate others, instead of censuring, de- 
nouncing and hating ourselves. But obvious though it may 
be, we are even now, with the twentieth century on its way 
out, reluctant to recognize that the universal dividing line be- 
tween good and evil runs not between countries, not be- 
tween nations, not between parties, not between classes, not 
even between good and bad men: the dividing line cuts 
across nations and parties, shifting constantly, yielding now 
to the pressure of light, now to the pressure of darkness. It 
divides the heart of every man, and there too it is not a ditch 
dug once and for all, but fluctuates with the passage of time 
and according to a man’s behavior. 

If we accept just this one fact, which has been made plain, 
especially by art, a thousand times before, what way out re- 
mains to us? Not the embittered strife of parties or nations, 
not the struggle to win some delusive victory — for all the fe- 
rocious causes already in being — but simply repentance and 
the search for our own errors and sins. We must stop blaming 
everyone else — our neighbors and more distant peoples, our 
geographical, economic or ideological rivals, always claiming 
that we alone are in the right. 

Repentance is the first bit of firm ground underfoot, the 
only one from which we can go forward not to fresh hatreds 
but to concord. Repentance is the only starting point for spiri- 
tual growth. 



For each and every individual. 

And every trend of social thought. 

True, repentant political parties are about as frequently en- 
countered in history as tiger-doves. (Politicians of course can 
still repent — many of them do not lose their human quali- 
ties. But parties are obviously utterly inhuman formations, 
and the very object of their existence precludes repentance.) 

Nations, on the other hand, are very vital formations, sus- 
ceptible to all moral feelings, including — however painful a 
step it may be — repentance. “An ethical idea has always 
preceded the birth of a nation,” says Dostoyevsky (in his 
Diary of a Writer ). The examples he gives are those of the 
Hebrew nation, founded only after Moses; and the several 
Moslem nations founded after the appearance of the Koran. 
“And when with the passage of time a nation’s spiritual ideal 
is sapped, that nation falls, together with all its civil statutes 
and ideals.” How then can a nation be defrauded of its right 
to repent? 

But here certain doubts at once arise, if only the following: 

(1) Is it not senseless to expect repentance from a whole 
nation — does this not assume that the sin, the vice, the de- 
fect is that of the whole nation? But this way of thinking — 
judging nations as a whole, talking about the qualities or 
traits of a whole nation — has been strictly forbidden to us 
for at least a hundred years. 

(2) The mass of the nation as a whole does not perform 
united actions. Indeed, under many systems of government, 
the mass can neither obstruct nor contribute to the decisions 
of its leaders. What should it repent of? 

And finally, even if we dismiss the first two points: 

(3) How can the nation as a whole express its repentance? 
Surely only through the mouths and by the pens of indi- 

Let us try to answer these questions. 




(1) Those who set the highest value on the existence of the 
nation, who see in it not the ephemeral fruit of social forma- 
tions but a complex, vivid, unrepeatable organism not in- 
vented by man, recognize that nations have a full spiritual 
life, that they can soar to the heights and plunge to the 
depths, run the whole gamut from saintliness to utter wicked- 
ness (although only individuals ever reach the extremes). Of 
course, great changes occur with the passage of time and the 
movement of history. That shifting boundary between good 
and evil, of which we spoke, oscillates continuously in the 
consciousness of a nation, sometimes very violently, so that 
judgments, reproaches, self-reproaches and even repentance 
itself are bound up with a specific time and pass away with it, 
leaving only vestigial contours behind to remind history of 
their existence. 

But then, individuals too change beyond recognition in the 
course of their lives, under the influence of events and of 
their own spiritual endeavors (and man’s hope, salvation and 
punishment lie in this, that we are capable of change, and 
that we ourselves, not our birth or our environment, are re- 
sponsible for our souls!). Yet we venture to label people 
“good” or “bad,” and our right to do so is not usually ques- 

The profoundest similarity between the individual and the 
nation lies in the mystical nature of their “givenness.” And 
human logic can show no cause why, if we permit value judg- 
ments on the one mutable entity, we should forbid them in 
the case of the other. To do so is a mere face-saving conven- 
tion, or perhaps a precaution against their careless misappli- 

If we continue to base ourselves on intuitive perceptions, 
to consult our feelings and not the dictates of positivist 
knowledge, we shall find that national sympathies and an- 
tipathies do exist in the vast majority of people. Sometimes 



they are shared only by a particular circle, large or small, and 
can only be uttered there (not too loudly for fear of offending 
against the spirit of the times), but sometimes these feelings 
(of love, or alas more often than not of hate) are so strong that 
they overwhelm whole nations and are boldly, even aggres- 
sively, trumpeted abroad. Often such feelings arise from fal- 
lacious or superficial experience. They are always relatively 
short-lived, flaring up and dying down again from time to 
time, but they do exist, and very emphatically. Everyone 
knows it is so, and only hypocrisy forbids us to talk about it. 

The changing conditions of its life, and changing external 
circumstances, determine whether a nation has anything to 
repent of today. Perhaps it has not. But because of the mu- 
tability of all existence, a nation can no more live without sin 
than can an individual. It is impossible to imagine a nation 
which throughout the course of its whole existence has no 
cause for repentance. Every nation without exception, how- 
ever persecuted, however cheated, however flawlessly right- 
eous it feels itself to be today, has certainly at one time or 
another contributed its share of inhumanity, injustice and ar- 

There are only too many examples, hosts of them, and this 
article is not a historical inquiry. It is a matter for special con- 
sideration in each particular case how much time must elapse 
before a sin ceases to weigh on the national conscience. Tur- 
key bears the still-fresh guilt of the Armenian massacres, yet 
for centuries before that she persecuted the Balkan Slavs — 
is the guilt for the latter still a living thing, or a thing of the 
past? (Let the impatient reader not rebuke me for not begin- 
ning immediately with Russia. Russia’s turn of course will 
come soon enough — what else would you expect from a 

(2) No one would now dispute that the British, French and 
Dutch peoples as a whole bear the guilt (and marks on their 
souls) for the colonial policies of their governments. Their 
system of government allowed for considerable obstruction 
to be placed in the way of colonialism by society. But there 
was little obstruction of this sort, and the nation was drawn 



into this seductive enterprise, with some individuals partici- 
pating, others supporting and others merely accepting it. 

Here is a case much nearer to hand, from the middle of the 
twentieth century, when public opinion in Western countries 
practically determines government behavior. After the Sec- 
ond World War the British and American authorities made a 
deal with their Soviet counterparts and systematically 
handed over in southern Europe (Austria and Italy) hundreds 
of thousands of civilian refugees from the USSR (over and 
above repatriated troops) who had no desire to return to their 
native land, handed them over deceitfully, without warning, 
contrary to their expectations and wishes, and in effect sent 
them to their death — probably half of them were destroyed 
by the camps. The relevant documents have been carefully 
concealed up to now. But there were living witnesses, 
knowledge of these events filtered out to the British and 
Americans, and during the past quarter of a century there 
have been plenty of opportunities in those countries to make 
inquiries, raise an outcry, bring the guilty to judgment. But 
no one has raised a finger. The reason is that the West today 
sees the sufferings of Eastern Europe in a distant haze. Com- 
placency, however, has never purged anyone of guilt. It is 
just because of this complacent silence that the vile treachery 
of the military authorities has seeped into and stained the na- 
tional conscience of those countries. Yet the voice of repen- 
tance has still not been heard. 

In Uganda today the mettlesome General Amin expels 
Asians supposedly on his own personal responsibility, but 
there is no doubt that he has the self-interested approval of a 
population which battens on the spoils of the deported. This 
is how the Ugandans have set out on the path of nationhood, 
and, as in all countries which previously suffered oppression 
and now frantically aspire to physical might, repentance is 
the very last feeling they are about to experience. 

It would be much less simple to demonstrate the responsi- 
bility of the Albanians for the behavior of their fanatical 
ruler, whose own country bears the full brunt of his tyranny 
only because he lacks the strength to turn upon others. But 



the enthusiastic layer of the population which keeps him in 
orbit must surely have been recruited from ordinary Albanian 

This is the peculiar feature of integrated organisms — that 
all their parts benefit and suffer alike from the activity of 
each organ. Even when the majority of the population is 
quite powerless to obstruct its political leaders, it is fated to 
answer for their sins and their mistakes. Even in the most to- 
talitarian states, whose subjects have no rights at all, we all 
bear responsibility — not only for the quality of our govern- 
ment, but also for the campaigns of our military leaders, for 
the deeds of our soldiers in the line of duty, for the shots 
fired by our frontier guards, for the songs of our young 

“For the sins of the fathers” — the saying is thousands of 
years old. How, you may ask, can we repent on their be- 
half — we weren’t even alive at the time I We are even less 
responsible than the subjects of a totalitarian regime I But the 
saying is not an idle one, and we have only too often seen 
and still see children paying for the fathers. 

The nation is mystically welded together in a community 
of guilt, and its inescapable destiny is common repentance. 

(3) Individual expressions of this common repentance are 
dubiously representative, for we cannot know whether those 
who make them speak with authority. And they are extremely 
difficult for the people who make them. Individual repen- 
tance is one thing: the counsels of outsiders, or even of those 
close to you, carry no weight once you have wholeheartedly 
committed yourself. But the man who takes it upon himself 
to express the repentance of a nation, on the other hand, will 
always be exposed to weighty dissuasions, reproaches, and 
warnings not to bring shame upon his country or give comfort 
to its enemies. Moreover, if in your own person you pro- 
nounce words of repentance on behalf of society as a whole, 
you must inevitably distribute the blame, indicating the 
various degrees of culpability of various groups — and that 
necessarily changes the spirit and tone of repentance and casts 
a shadow on it. It is only at a historical distance that we can 



unerringly judge to what degree one man has expressed a 
genuine change of heart in his nation. 

But it can happen — and Russia is a striking example of 
this — that repentance is expressed not just once and mo- 
mentarily by a single writer or orator, but becomes the nor- 
mal mood of all thinking society. Thus in the nineteenth 
century a repentant mood spread among the Russian upper- 
class intelligentsia (and so overwhelmed them that the peni- 
tents ceased to acknowledge any good in themselves or any 
sin in the common people), then gathered force, took in the 
middle-class intelligentsia as well, and, translating itself into 
action, became a historical movement with incalculable — 
and even counterproductive — consequences. 

The repentance of a nation expresses itself most surely and 
palpably in its actions. In its finite actions. 

Even in our own calculating and impenitent age we see a 
powerful movement of repentance in the country which 
bears the guilt for two world wars. Not, alas, in the whole na- 
tion. Only in that half (or three-quarters) where the ideology 
of hate does not stand like an impregnable concrete wall in 
the way of repentance. 

This repentance, not just in words, in protestations, but in 
real actions, in large concessions, was dramatically mani- 
fested to us in Chancellor Brandt’s “ Canossa-Reise ” to War- 
saw, to Auschwitz, and then to Israel, and found further 
expression in his whole Ost-Politik. From a practical point of 
view, this policy seems less carefully weighed and balanced 
than “policies” generally are. It was bom, perhaps, of moral 
imperatives, in the cloudy atmosphere of penitence which 
hung over Germany after the Second World War. This is 
what makes it remarkable — that an ethical impulse, rather 
than political calculation, lies behind it — and it is just the 
sort of noble and generous impulse which one longs to see 
today in other nations and countries (and above all in our 
ownl). It would have vindicated itself in practical terms too if 
it had met with a similar spiritual response from the East Eu- 
ropean partners, instead of grasping political greed. 

It is, however, only fitting that a Russian author, writing for 



Russia, should turn to the question of Russia’s need to re- 
pent. This article is written with faith in the natural procliv- 
ity of Russians to repent, in our ability even as things are 
now to find the penitential impulse in ourselves and set the 
whole world an example. 

Significantly, one of the fundamental proverbs expressing 
the Russian view of the world was (at any rate before the rev- 
olution) “God is not in might but in right." This belief may 
be partly natural to us, but was powerfully reinforced by the 
Orthodox faith, which was once sincerely embraced by the 
whole mass of the people. (It is only nowadays that we are 
persuaded, almost to a man, that “might is right,” and act ac- 

We were generously endowed with the gift of repentance: 
at one time it irrigated a broad tract of the Russian character. 
Not for nothing was the “day of forgiveness” such a high 
point in our calendar. In the distant past (until the seven- 
teenth century) Russia was so rich in penitential movements 
that repentance was among the most prominent Russian na- 
tional characteristics. Upsurges of repentance, or rather of 
religious penitence on a mass scale, were in the spirit of pre- 
Petrine Russia: it would begin separately, in many hearts, 
and merge into a powerful current. This is probably the no- 
blest and only true way of broad, popular repentance. Klyu- 
chevsky , 1 studying the economic documents on ancient 
Russia, found many cases of Russians moved by repentance 
to forgive debts, to cancel debt-slavery or set their bondsmen 
fiee, and this did much to soften the force of cruel laws. Inor- 
dinate accumulations of wealth were mitigated by lavish 
bequests to charity. We know how very many penitents re- 
tired to religious settlements, hermits’ cells and monasteries. 
The chronicles and ancient Russian literature alike abound 
in examples of repentance. And Ivan the Terrible’s terror 
never became so all-embracing or systematic as Stalin’s, 
largely because the tsar repented and came to his senses. 

l. Vasily Klyuchevsky (1841-1911), most distinguished Russian national his- 
torian of the nineteenth century, author of A Course of Russian History. 
— Trans. 



But with the soulless reforms of Nikon 2 and Peter the 
Great began the extirpation and suppression of the Russian 
national spirit, and our capacity for repentance also began to 
wither and dry up. The monstrous punishment of the Old 
Believers — the burnings at the stake, the red-hot pincers, 
the impalements on meat hooks, the dungeons — followed 
for two and a half centuries by the senseless repression of 
twelve million meek and defenseless fellow-countrymen, 
and their dispersal to the most uninhabitable regions of the 
country or even expulsion from the country — all this is a sin 
for which the established Church has never proclaimed its 
repentance. This was bound to weigh heavily on the whole 
future of Russia. Yet all that happened was that in 1905 the 
persecuted were forgiven (too late, far too late, to save the 

The whole Petersburg period of our history — a period of 
external greatness, of imperial conceit — drew the Russian 
spirit even farther from repentance. So far that we managed 
to preserve serfdom for a century or more after it had become 
unthinkable, keeping the greater part of our own people in a 
slavery which robbed them of all human dignity. So far that 
even the upsurge of repentance on the part of thinking soci- 
ety came too late to appease angry minds, but engulfed us in 
the clouds of a new savagery, brought a pitiless rain of venge- 
ful blows on our heads, an unprecedented terror, and the re- 
turn, after seventy years, of serfdom in a still worse form. 

In the twentieth century the blessed dews of repentance 
could no longer soften the parched Russian soil, baked hard 
by doctrines of hate. In the past sixty years we have not 
merely lost the gift of repentance in our public life but have 
ridiculed it. This feeling was precipitately abandoned and 
made an object of contempt, the place in the soul where 

2. Patriarch Nikon was patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church under Tsar 
Aleksei Mikhailovich from 1652 to 1667 (although the latter half of this period 
was spent in retirement). He initiated a series of sweeping reforms in eccle- 
siastical and secular custom designed to modernize and strengthen the 
Church, but resulting in serious schism. His reforms were accepted, but si- 
multaneously led to his own downfall as patriarch. Meanwhile the schisma- 
tics, who clung to the old customs and rites, became known as the Old 
Believers.”— Trans. 



repentance once dwelt was laid waste. For half a century 
now we have acted on the conviction that the guilty ones 
were the tsarist establishment, the bourgeois patriots, social 
democrats, White Guards, priests, emigres, subversives, ku- 
laks, henchmen of kulaks, engineers, “wreckers,” 3 opposi- 
tionists, enemies of the people, nationalists, Zionists, 
imperialists, militarists, even modernists — anyone and ev- 
eryone except you and me I Obviously it was they, not we, 
who had to reform. But they dug their heels in and refused 
to. So how could they be made to reform, except by bayonets 
(revolvers, barbed wire, starvation)? 

One of the peculiarities of Russian history is that our evil 
doing has always, even up to the present day, taken the same 
direction: we have done evil on a massive scale and mainly 
in our own country, not abroad, not to others, but at home to 
our own people, to ourselves. No one has borne so much of 
the suffering as the Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians. 
So that as we awaken to repentance we shall have to re- 
member much that concerns only us, and for which outsiders 
will not reproach us. 

Will it be easy for us honestly to remember it all, when we 
have lost all feeling for truth? We, the present older and 
middle generations, have spent our whole lives floundering 
and wallowing in the stinking swamp of a society based on 
force and fraud — how could we escape defilement? Are 
there naturally angelic characters — gliding as it were 
weightlessly above the slime without ever sinking into it, 
even when their feet touch its surface? We have all met such 
people — Russia is not so short of them as all that. They are 
the “just,” we have all seen them and marveled (“such funny 
people”), profited from their goodness, repaid them in kind 
in our better moments, for we can’t help liking them, and 
then plunged back into the depths to which we are doomed. 
We have floundered, some (the lucky ones) ankle-deep, some 
knee-deep, some waist-deep, some up to our necks, accord- 
ing to the changing circumstances and our peculiarities of 

3. The name applied to alleged industrial saboteurs in the twenties. 



character, while some were totally immersed and only oc- 
casional bubbles from a not quite dead soul reached the sur- 
face to remind us of their existence. 

But who, if not we ourselves, constitutes society P This 
realm of darkness, of falsehood, of brute force, of justice de- 
nied and distrust of the good, this slimy swamp was formed 
by us, and no one else. We grew used to the idea that we 
must submit and lie in order to survive — and we brought up 
our children to do so. Each of us, if he honestly reviews the 
life he has led, without special pleading or concealment, will 
recall more than one occasion on which he pretended not to 
hear a cry for help, averted his indifferent eyes from an im- 
ploring gaze, burned letters and photographs which it was 
his duty to keep, forgot someone’s name or dropped certain 
widows, turned his back on prisoners under escort, and — 
but of course — always voted, rose to his feet and applauded 
obscenities (even though he felt obscene while he was doing 
it) — how, otherwise, could we survive? How, moreover, 
could the great Archipelago have endured in our midst for 
fifty years unnoticed? 

Need I mention the common or garden informers, traitors 
and sadists of whom there must surely have been more than 
one million, or how could such an Archipelago have been 

And if we now long — and there is a glimmer of hope that 
we do — to go forward at last into a just, clean, honest so- 
ciety — how else can we do so except by shedding the bur- 
den of our past, except by repentance, for we are all guilty, 
all besmirched? We cannot convert the kingdom of universal 
falsehood into a kingdom of universal truth by even the clev- 
erest and most skillfully contrived economic and social re- 
forms: these are the wrong building bricks . 4 

4. The line of repentance becomes easier and clearer to follow if it is com- 
pared with the line traced by the defense of civil rights. Here is a fresh 
recent example that puts the whole thing in a nutshell. Some years ago a 
now well-known dissident wrote a film script in the course of his normal, of- 
ficially approved artistic career which was highly thought of and allowed 
onto the country’s cinema screens — which means it is not difficult to guess 
at its spiritual value. On the occasion of some recent diplomatic triumph it 



But if millions pour out their repentance, their confessions, 
their contrite sorrow — not all of them perhaps publicly, but 
among friends and people who know them — what could 
all this together be called except “the repentance of the 

But here our endeavor, like any attempt to summon a na- 
tion to repentance, runs into objections from within: Russia 
has suffered so much that she cannot be asked to repent as 
well, she must be pitied, not tormented with reminders of 
her sins. 

And it is true. No country in the twentieth century has suf- 
fered like ours, which within its own borders has destroyed 
as many as seventy million people over and above those lost 
in the world wars — no one in modem history has experi- 
enced such destruction. And it is true: it is painful to chide 
where one must pity. But repentance is always painful, other- 
wise it would have no moral value. Those people were not 
the victims of flood or earthquake. There were innocent vic- 
tims and guilty victims, but they would never have reached 
such a terrifying total if they had suffered only at the hands of 
others: we, all of us, Russia herself were the necessary ac- 

An even harsher, colder point of view, or rather current of 
opinion, has become discernible of late. Stripped to essen- 
tials, but not distorted, it goes like this: the Russian people is 
the noblest in the world; its ancient and its modem history 
are alike unblemished; tsarism and Bolshevism are equally 
irreproachable; the nation neither erred nor sinned either 
before 1917 or after; we have suffered no loss of moral stature 
and therefore have no need of self-improvement; there are no 

was thought appropriate to exhibit this film once more, but the name of the 
now offending scriptwriter was cut out And what was the scriptwriter’s reac- 
tion? What would have been the most natural thing to do? The line of repen- 
tance would have indicated joy and satisfaction that he had, as it were, been 
automatically relieved of the disgrace of this former spiritual compromise 
and reprieved of an ancient sin. Might he not even have made a public state- 
ment about his feelings of absolution? Well, the scriptwriter certainly made 
a public statement, but it was a protest, asserting his right to have his name 
on the film. The infringement of his civil rights struck him as more important 
than the opportunity to purge himself of a previous sin. [A.S., 1974.] 



nationality problems in relations with the border republics — 
Lenin’s and Stalin’s solution was ideal; communism is in feet 
unthinkable without patriotism; the prospects of Russia- 
USSR are brilliant; blood alone determines whether one is 
Russian or non-Russian. As for things spiritual, all trends are 
admissible. Orthodoxy is not the least bit more Russian than 
Marxism, atheism, the scientific outlook, or, shall we say, 
Hinduism. God need not be written with a capital letter, but 
Government must be. 

Their general name for all this is “the Russian idea.” (A 
more precise name for this trend would be “National Bol- 

“We are Russians, what rapture,” cried Suvorov. 6 “And 
how fraught with danger to the soul,” added F. Stepun 6 after 
our revolutionary experiences. 

As we understand it patriotism means unqualified and un- 
wavering love for the nation, which implies not uncritical 
eagerness to serve, not support for unjust claims, but frank as- 
sessment of its vices and sins, and penitence for them. We 
ought to get used to the idea that no people is eternally great 
or eternally noble (such titles are hard won and easily lost); 
that the greatness of a people is to be sought not in the blare 
of trumpets — physical might is purchased at a spiritual price 
beyond our means — but in the level of its inner develop- 
ment, in its breadth of soul (fortunately one of nature’s gifts 
to us), in unarmed moral steadfastness (in which the Czechs 
and Slovaks recently gave Europe a lesson, without however 
troubling its conscience more than briefly). 

In what we may call the neo-Muscovite period the conceit 
of the preceding Petersburg period has become grosser and 
blinder. And this has led us even farther from a penitential 
state of mind, so that it is not easy to convince our fellow- 
countrymen, to force on them an awareness that we Russians 
are not traversing the heavens in a blaze of glory but sitting 
forlornly on a heap of spiritual cinders. And unless we re- 

5. Alexander Suvorov (1729-1800), celebrated general who led the Swiss 
and Italian campaigns against Napoleon. — Trans. 

6. Fyodor Stepun (1884-1965), Russian philosopher who was expelled from 
the Soviet Union in 1922. — Trans. 



cover the gift of repentance, our country will perish and will 
drag down the whole world with it. 

Only through the repentance of a multitude of people can 
the air and the soil of Russia be cleansed so that a new, 
healthy national life can grow up. We cannot raise a clean 
crop on a false, unsound, obdurate soil. 


If we try to make an act of national repentance we must be 
ready for hostility and resistance on the one hand, and impas- 
sioned efforts to lead us astray on the other. S. Bulgakov 7 has 
written that “only suffering love gives one the right to chas- 
tise one’s own nation.” 8 You would think it was impossible 
to take it upon oneself to “repent” on behalf of a nation to 
which one felt alien or even hostile. Yet people eager to do 
just this have already come forward. Given the obscurity of 
our recent history, the destruction of archives, the disappear- 
ance of evidence, our defenselessness against all sorts of pre- 
sumptuous and unproven judgments and all sorts of galling 
distortions, we can probably expect many such attempts. And 
we already have the first of them, a fairly resolute effort 
which claims to be nothing less than an act of “national re- 

We cannot pass it by unexamined. I am speaking of articles 
in the Vestnik RSKD 9 No. 97, and particularly “Metanoia” 
(self-condemnation, self-examination — a term taken from 
the same Bulgakov writing in 1910) by the anonymous NN, 
and “Russian Messianism” by the pseudonymous Gorsky. 

Even the boldest works of samizdat always have an eye to 
the surrounding circumstances. But here, writing in a foreign 
publication and anonymously, the authors have absolutely no 
apprehension either for themselves or for their readers and 
therefore seize the chance to pour out their hearts for just 

7. See note on page 20 . — Trans. 

8. In Two Cities, Moscow, 1910, 2nd edition, p. 289. 

9. See pages 95 to 96 and note on page 96 . — Trans. 



once in their lives — an urge entirely understandable to any 
Soviet person. Their tone could not be sharper, and the style 
becomes informal, even impertinent. The authors fear nei- 
ther the authorities nor the critical reader: they are will-o’- 
the-wisps, safe from discovery; there is no arguing with 
them. This makes them still more uncompromising in their 
conduct of the case against Russia. There is not the slightest 
hint that the authors share any complicity with their coun- 
trymen, with the rest of us; there is nothing but denunciation 
of the irredeemably vicious Russian people and a tone of 
contempt for those who have been led astray. Nowhere do 
we feel that the authors think of themselves and their readers 
as “we.” Living among us, they call on us to repent, while 
they themselves remain unassailable and guiltless. (The pun- 
ishment for this alienness extends even to their language, 
which is quite un-Russian and in the tradition of those in- 
stant translations from Western philosophy which people 
were forever rushing out in the nineteenth century.) 

These articles solemnly bury Russia, with a bayonet thrust 
just in case — just as prisoners in the camps are buried: it’s 
too much trouble to make sure whether the man’s dead, just 
bayonet him and sling him in the burial trench. 

Here are a few of their statements. 

“When it began its revolt against God, the Russian people 
knew that the socialist religion could be made a reality only 
through despotism 1” (Gorsky). 

When were we, in our birchbark sandals, so mature and 
perceptive? The revolt was started by the intelligentsia, but 
it too did not know what can be so effortlessly formulated in 
the seventies of the twentieth century. 

“More Evil has been brought into the world by Russia than 
by any other country” (NN). 

We shall not say that Russia has brought little evil into the 
world. But did the so-called Great French Revolution, did 
France, that is, bring less? Is there any way of calculating? 
What of the Third Reich? Or Marxism as such? Not to go any 
further. . . . And there is another side to the question: per- 
haps our inhuman experience, paid for mainly with our own 



blood and that of the peoples nearest akin to us, has even 
benefited some of earth’s more distant inhabitants? Perhaps 
in some places it has taught the obtuse ruling classes to make 
a few concessions? Perhaps the liberation of the colonial 
world was not entirely uninfluenced by the October revolu- 
tion — as a reaction to it, to prevent a repetition of what hap- 
pened to us — God alone can know, and it is not for us to 
judge which country has done most evil. 

“In the revolution the people proved to be an imaginary 
quantity. ... Its own national culture is completely alien to 
the Russian people.” The proof: “In the first years of the rev- 
olution icons were found useful for firewood, and churches 
for building material” (Gorsky). 

There you have it: anybody who feels like it can come 
along with a snap judgment, because our chronicles have 
been obliterated. If the people proved to be an imaginary 
quantity — how can it be blamed for the revolution, what- 
ever other charges are brought against it? If it proved to be 
an imaginary quantity — who was resisting the revolution in 
the peasant risings which inundated Tambov and Siberia? 
The people had to be reduced to “imaginary” status by long 
years of destruction, oppression and seduction — and this de- 
struction is just what Gorsky appears not to know about. It 
was a complicated process — and how simple he has made it. 
In 1918 Russian peasants rose in defense of the Church — 
several hundred such risings were put down by Red arms. Of 
course, after the clergy had been destroyed, after defenders 
of the faith among die peasantry and in urban parishes 
had been massacred and all the rest terrorized — while 
the Komsomols 10 and Communist youth organizations 
grew up in the meantime — after all this they did indeed go 
and wreck the churches with crowbars (but even then it was 
mainly the work of Komsomol members who were specially 
hired for this purpose). Ever since, in the northern regions, 
icons have been, not “sold for a song” to treasure-hunters 
from Moscow, as our well-informed author writes (true, they 

10. Komsomol: the Russian abbreviation for the League of Young Commu- 
nists, the youth arm of the Communist party. — Trans. 



sometimes change hands for a bottle), but given away: it is 
considered a sin to take money for them. Whereas the pro- 
gressive young intellectuals who receive such a gift quite 
often do a profitable trade with foreigners. 

But most of the heat and space in this bulky publication are 
devoted to the denunciation of Russian messianism. 

“Overcoming the national messianic delusion is Russia's 
most urgent task.” Russian messianism is more tenacious of 
life than Russia itself: Russia, we are told, is dead, of “ar- 
chaeological” interest, like Byzantium, but its messianism is 
not dead, it has simply been reborn as Soviet messianism 

This cunning perversion of our history comes as such a 
surprise that it is not immediately discernible. The author 
begins by tracing in exaggeratedly academic fashion the “his- 
tory” of our ill-starred and deathless messianism, which how- 
ever was for some reason not always discernible in Russia: 
for two centuries (the fifteenth to the seventeenth) it was in 
evidence, then missing for the next two, then it reemerged in 
the nineteenth century (apparently the intelligentsia was 
“carried away” by it — does anyone remember anything of 
the kind?), it disguised itself during the revolution as “prole- 
tarian messianism,” and in recent decades has tom off its 
mask and once more revealed itself as Russian messianism. 
So, traveling via dotted lines, sophistries, and abrupt transi- 
tions, the idea of the Third Rome suddenly surfaces again in 
the guise of the Third International! 11 With the obsessive 
thoroughness of hate, our whole history is arbitrarily dis- 
torted for some never quite graspable purpose — and all this 
is speciously represented as an act of repentance! The blows 
seem to be aimed only at the Third Rome and messianism — 
then suddenly we discover that the breakers hammer is not 
smashing dilapidated walls but pounding the last spark of life 

11. “Third Rome” refers to the medieval Russian religious belief that after 
the fall of Constantinople (the “second Rome”) in 1492, Moscow would 
become the center of Christendom and a “third Rome.” The “Third Interna- 
tional,” or Comintern, was a world organization of Communist parties that 
existed from 1919 to 1943 with the aim of conquering the world for com- 
munism. — Trans. 



out of the long dormant, barely surviving Russian national 
consciousness. See how keen his aim is: 

“The Russian idea is the main content of Bolshevism”! 
“The crisis of the Communist idea is the crisis of that source 
of faith by which Russia lived so long” (“for centuries,” ac- 
cording to the context). 

See how they turn us inside out and trample us. Russia 
“lived so long” by the Orthodox faith, as everybody kpows. 
But the main content of Bolshevism is unbridled militant 
atheism and class hatred. Still, according to our neo-Christian 
authors, it all comes to the same thing. The tradition of fanati- 
cal atheism is received into the tradition of ancient Ortho- 
doxy. Is the “Russian idea,” then, the “main content” of an 
international doctrine which came to us from the West? 
When Marat called for “a million heads” and asserted that 
the hungry have the right to eat the well-fed (how well we 
know such situations!) — was this also the “Russian mes- 
sianic consciousness” at work? Sixteenth-century Germany 
seethed with communistic movements — so why, when this 
“Russian idea” was about, did nothing similar happen during 
the Time of Troubles in seventeenth-century Russia? 

“Revolution could exercise its fatal fascination only be- 
cause of Russia’s ecumenical pride” (NN). 

How can we tie these loose ends together? If tsarism 
rested on “Russia’s ecumenical pride,” how can revolution, 
which brought down the tsarist structure in ruins, also origi- 
nate in “Russian pride”? 

“Proletarian messianism is taking on a blatantly Russophile 
character” (Chelnov). 

This is in our own day, when half the Russian people live 
like serfs, without internal passports. Have we memory and 
courage enough to recall the first fifteen years after the revo- 
lution, when “proletarian messianism took on a blatantly” 
Russophobe character? The years from 1918 to 1933, when 
“proletarian messianism” destroyed the flower of the Russian 
people, the flower of the old classes — gentry, merchants, 
clergy — then the flower of the intelligentsia, then the flower 
of the peasantry? What shall we say of the time before it 



acquired its “blatantly Russophile character,” and had a bla- 
tantly Russophobe character? 

“Bolshevism is an organic outgrowth of Russian life” (NN 
and Chelnov). 

Whether this is so or not will be much debated for a long 
time to come. And it cannot be decided in heated polemics, 
but only by detailed and carefully documented research. 
Quiet Flows the Don 12 — the authentic version, undistorted 
by illiterate interpolations — offers more useful evidence 
than a dozen modem publicists. Our scholars and artists will 
long be debating whether the Russian revolution was the 
consequence of a moral upheaval that had already taken 
place among the people, or vice versa. And when they do, let 
none of the circumstances passed over here be forgotten. 

Of course, once it was victorious on Russian soil the move- 
ment was bound to draw Russian forces in its wake and ac- 
quire Russian features 1 But let us remember the international 
forces of the revolution tool Did not the revolution through- 
out its early years have some of the characteristics of a 
foreign invasion? When in a foraging party, or the punitive 
detachment which came down to destroy a mral district, 
there would be Finns and there would be Austrians, but 
hardly anyone who spoke Russian? When the organs of the 
Cheka 13 teemed with Latvians, Poles, Jews, Hungarians, 
Chinese? When in the critical early phases of the civil war it 
was foreign and especially Latvian bayonets that turned the 
scales and kept the Bolsheviks in power? (At the time this 
was not a matter for shame or concealment.) Or later, 
throughout the twenties, when the Russian tradition and all 
trace of Russian history were systematically ferreted out in 
all fields of culture, eliminated even from place-names, in a 
way seen only under enemy occupation — was this self- 

12. The epic novel about the Russian revolution and civil war, published by 
Mikhail Sholokhov in 1928. Ever since publication there have been persis- 
tent, but unproven, rumors that Sholokhov was not the true author. Early in 
1974, Solzhenitsyn authorized the publication in Russian in Paris of an anon- 
ymous work (“The Rapids of The Quiet Don*) purporting to prove that 
the author was not Sholokhov but a White Cossack officer and prerevolu- 
tionary writer named Fyodor Kryukov. — Trans. 

13. See note on page 11. — Trans. 



destructive urge also a manifestation of the “Russian idea”? 
Gorsky notes that in 1919 the borders of Soviet Russia 
roughly corresponded with those of the Muscovite state — 
ergo Bolshevism was supported mainly by Russians. But this 
geographical feet could equally well be interpreted to mean 
simply that it was mainly Russians who were forced to 
shoulder the burden of Bolshevism. And can we think of any 
people on earth in the twentieth century which when 
trapped by the incoming tide of communism has pulled itself 
together and stood firm? So fiu: there is not a single example 
of this, except South Korea, where the United Nations came 
to the rescue. South Vietnam might have been another case, 
but has apparently been thrown off balance. And right now, 
are we to say that communism in Cuba or in Vietnam “is an 
organic outgrowth of Russian life”? Is “Marxism one of the 
forms taken by the populist-messianic mentality” in France 
too? Or in Latin America? Or in Tanzania? And does all this 
come from the unwashed monk Filofei? 

What a state of disrepair twentieth-century Russian history 
is in, how grotesquely distorted and full of obscurities, if peo- 
ple so self-confidendy ignorant of it can offer us their ser- 
vices as judges. Because of our complacency we may live to 
see the day when fifty or a hundred years of Russian history 
will have sunk into oblivion, and nobody will be able to es- 
tablish any reliable record of them — it will be too late. 

The publication of these articles is not fortuitous — the 
idea is perhaps to take advantage of our helplessness, turn 
recent Russian history inside out, blame us Russians alone 
not only for our own misfortunes but also for those of our 
erstwhile tormentors and nowadays pretty well the whole 
planet These accusations are typical of their authors, 
plucked out of thin air and shamelessly fabricated, and it is 
easy to foresee already how they intend to go on searing our 
wounds with them. 

This article has not been written to minimize the guilt of 
the Russian people. Nor, however, to scrape all the guilt from 
mother earth and load it onto ourselves. True, we were not 
vaccinated against the plague. True, we lost our heads. True, 



we gave way, and then caved in altogether. All true. But we 
have not been the first and only begetters in all this time 
since the fifteenth century I 

We are not the only ones, there are many others. Indeed, 
almost everyone when the time comes gives way, gives up, 
sometimes under less pressure than we succumbed to, and at 
times even eagerly. (The brief period of our history from 
February to October 1917 has turned out to be a compressed 
resume of the later and present history of the West.) 

Thus, at the very beginning of our repentance we have 
been warned: the path ahead will bristle with such insults 
and slanders. If you are the first to repent, earlier and more 
fully than others, you must expect predators in the guise of 
penitents to flock around and peck your liver. 

Nonetheless, there is no way out, except that of re- 


It may turn out that we are already incapable of following 
the path of our dreams, reaching out and acknowledging our 
mistakes, our sins, our crimes. In that case there is no moral 
escape route from the pit into which we have fallen. And 
every other way out is illusory, no more than a short-lived 
social delusion. 

But if it turns out that we are still not utterly lost and can 
find in ourselves the strength to pass through this burning 
zone of general national repentance, of internal repentance, 
for the harm which we have done here in our own country, to 
ourselves, will it be possible for Russia to stop at that? No, 
we shall have to find in ourselves the resolve to take the next 
step: to acknowledge our external sins, those against other 

There are plenty of them. To clear the international air and 
convince others of our sincere goodwill, we must not conceal 
these sins, not tuck them away nor slur over them in our 
remembrance. My view is that if we err in our repentance, it 



should be on the side of exaggeration, giving others the ben- 
efit of the doubt. We should accept in advance that there is 
no neighbor toward whom we bear no guilt. Let us behave as 
people do on the day of forgiveness, and ask forgiveness of 
all around us. 

The scope of our repentance must be infinite. We cannot 
run away even from ancient sins; we may write off other peo- 
ple’s sins as ancient history, but we have no right to do it for 
ourselves. A few pages further on I shall be talking about the 
future of Siberia — and whenever I do so my heart sinks at 
the thought of our age-old sin in oppressing and destroying 
the indigenous peoples. And is this really ancient history? If 
Siberia today were densely populated by the original na- 
tional groups the only step we could ethically take would be 
to cede their land to them and not stand in the way of their 
freedom. But since there is only a faint sprinkling of them on 
the Siberian continent, it is permissible for us to seek our fu- 
ture there, so long as we show a tender fraternal concern for 
the natives, help them in their daily lives, educate them, and 
do not forcibly impose our ways on them. 

A historical survey would be out of place in this article — 
and besides, space does not permit it. It would contain 
crimes enough — as for instance those we committed against 
the mountain peoples of the Caucasus: the Russian military 
encroachment in the nineteenth century (condemned at the 
proper time by the great Russian writers) and the deporta- 
tions of the twentieth century (which Caucasian writers 
themselves dare not deal with). 

Repentance is always difficult. And not only because we 
must cross the threshold of self-love, but also because our 
own sins are not so easily visible to us. 

If we take the Russo-Polish theme — here too there is an 
endless tangle of crimes. To unravel it would teach us much 
about human relations in the broadest sense. (Today, when 
both the Poles and we ourselves are crushed by brute force, 
such a historical inquiry may seem inappropriate. But I write 
for posterity. Someday it may seem appropriate.) 

So much has been said about our guilt toward Poland that 



it has left a deposit on our memory, and we need no more 
persuasion. The three Partitions. The suppression of the 1830 
and 1863 risings. After that. Russification: Polish-speaking el- 
ementary schools were completely forbidden, in high schools 
even the Polish language was taught in Russian (as an obliga- 
tory subject) and pupils were forbidden to speak Polish 
among themselves in their living quarters! In the twentieth 
century there was the stubborn struggle to deny Poland its 
independence, and the crafty ambiguities of Russia’s leaders 
in 1914-1916. 

At the same time, how frequent were the expressions of 
penitence from the Russian side, from Herzen 14 onward, 
how unanimous was the sympathy of all educated Russian so- 
ciety for the Poles, so much so that in the councils of the 
Progressive Bloc, Polish independence was regarded as a 
war aim no less important than Russian victory. 

If the most recent happenings have inspired no such cry of 
repentance in Russia, it is only because we are so crushed, 
but we all remember, and there will yet be occasion to say it 
out loud: the noble stab in the back for dying Poland on 17 
September 1939; the destruction of the flower of the Polish 
people in our camps, Katyn in particular; and our gloating, 
heartless immobility on die bank of the Vistula in August 
1944, whence we gazed through our binoculars at Hider 
crushing the rising of the nationalist forces in Warsaw — no 
need for them to get big ideas, we will find the right people 
to put in the government (I was nearby, and I speak with 
certainty: the impetus of our advance was such that the forc- 
ing of the Vistula would have been no problem, and it would 
have changed the fate of Warsaw.) 

But just as some individuals more readily open their hearts 
to repentance, and others are more resistant and offer not a 
single chink, so, I think, with nations — some are more and 
some less inclined to repent 

14. Alexander Herzen (1812-1870), famous Russian political figure and 
thinker and editor of the emigre journal the Bell, which he published from 
London after his forced emigration from Russia in 1847 . — Trans. 



In previous centuries Poland in its prime, strong and self- 
confident, was busy just as long and just as energetically an- 
nexing our territory and oppressing us. (Galician Ruthenia 
and Podolia in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries; then 
Polesia, Volynia and the Ukraine were incorporated under 
the Union of Lublin in 1569. In the sixteenth century came 
Stefan Batory’s campaign against Russia, and the siege of 
Pskov. At the end of the sixteenth century the Poles put 
down the Cossack rising under Nalivaiko. At the beginning 
of the seventeenth century — the wars of Zygmunt III, the 
two false claimants to the Russian throne, the occupation of 
Smolensk, the temporary occupation of Moscow, the cam- 
paign of Wladyslaw IV. At that point the Poles almost de- 
prived us of our national independence, and the danger for 
us was no less serious than that of the Tartar invasion, since 
the Poles were out to destroy the Orthodox faith. In their 
own country they systematically oppressed the Orthodox, 
and forced them into the Uniate church. In the mid-seven- 
teenth century came the repression of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, 
and even in the middle of the eighteenth the crushing of the 
peasant rising at Uman.) Well then, has any wave of regret 
rolled over educated Polish society, any wave of repentance 
surged through Polish literature? Never. Even the Arians, 
who were opposed to war in general, had nothing special to 
say about the subjugation of the Ukraine and Byelorussia. 
During our Time of Troubles, the eastward expansion of Po- 
land was accepted by Polish society as a normal and even 
praiseworthy policy. The Poles thought of themselves as 
God’s chosen people, the bastion of Christianity, whose mis- 
sion was to carry true Christianity to the “semipagan” Ortho- 
dox of savage Muscovy, and to be the propagators of 
Renaissance university culture. And when some people 
openly voiced their second thoughts and regrets about this 
when Poland went into decline in the second half of the 
eighteenth century, they were of a political and never of an 
ethical nature. 

True, one cannot always draw the line between a general 



national characteristic and the imprint of a particular social 
order. The Polish social order, with its weak elected kings, 
its all-powerful magnates and the utterly undisciplined sel- 
fishness of the gentry, led to the noisy self-assertion of na- 
tionhood, which ruled out self-limitation and made 
repentance seem inappropriate. In such a society educated 
Poles felt themselves to be participants and authors of all that 
was done, and not detached observers, whereas repentance 
was made easier for Russians in the nineteenth and early 
twentieth century by the fact that those who condemned of- 
ficial policy could consider themselves uninvolved: it was all 
their doing, the tsar did not consult society. 

But perhaps Polish penitence expressed itself in deeds? 
For more than a century Poland experienced the misery of 
dismemberment, but then under the Versailles treaty gained 
independence and a great deal of territory (once more at the 
expense of the Ukraine and Byelorussia). Poland’s first action 
in its relations with the outside world was to attack Soviet 
Russia in 1920 — it attacked energetically, and took Kiev 
with the object of breaking through to the Black Sea. We are 
taught at school — to make it seem more awful — that this 
was the “Third Campaign of the Entente” and that Poland 
concerted its actions with the White generals in order to re- 
store tsarism. This is rubbish. It was an independent act on 
the part of Poland, which waited for the rout of all the main 
White forces so as not to be their involuntary ally and so that 
it could plunder and carve up Russia for itself while the latter 
was most helplessly fragmented. This did not quite come off 
(though Poland did extract an indemnity from the Soviets). 
Then in 1921 came its second foreign-policy initiative: the 
illegal detachment of Vilnius and the surrounding area from a 
weak Lithuania. And neither the League of Nations, nor all 
the admonitions and appeals to the Polish conscience, had 
any effect: Poland still clung to the piece it had grabbed to 
the very day of its collapse. Can anyone remember the nation 
repenting in this connection? (Poland’s aggressive acts, in- 
cidentally, were carried out by the socialist Pilsudski, one of 



Alexander Ulyanov’s 16 codefendants.) In the Ukrainian and 
Byelorussian lands annexed under the treaty of 1921, a policy 
of relentless Polonization was carried out, even Orthodox ser- 
mons and Scripture lessons had a Polish accent. And in the 
infamous year of 1937, Orthodox churches were demolished 
(more than a hundred of them, including Warsaw Cathedral) 
on the Polish side of the frontier too, and priests and parish- 
ioners were arrested. 

How can we possibly rise above all this, except by mutual 

And is it not true that the degree of our repentance, indi- 
vidual or national, is very much influenced by an awareness 
of guilt on the other side? If those whom we hurt have pre- 
viously hurt us, our guilt feelings are not so hysterical, their 
guilt modifies and mutes our own. The memory of the Tartar 
yoke in Russia must always dull our possible sense of guilt 
toward the remnants of the Golden Horde. Our guilt feelings 
toward the Estonians and Lithuanians are always more pain- 
ful and shameful than any we have toward the Latvians or 
Hungarians, whose rifles barked often enough in the cellars 
of the Cheka and the backyards of Russian villages. (I ignore 
the inevitable noisy protests that these were “not the same 
people,” that one cannot transfer the blame from one set of 
people to another. We are not the same people either. But we 
must all answer for everything.) 

This is yet another argument in favor of general repen- 
tance. What relief, what rapturous relief it gives us when our 
enemies acknowledge their guilt toward us! How gratefully 
eager we are to outstrip them in repentance, to surpass them 
in magnanimity! 

But repentance loses all sense if it goes no farther: if we 
have a good cry and then go on as before. Repentance opens 
up the path to a new relationship. Between nations as be- 
tween individuals. 

15. Alexander Ulyanov (1866-1887), Lenin’s elder brother, was executed 
with four others in 1887 after an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Tsar 
Alexander III. Pilsudski and one other defendant were pardoned. — Trans. 



The repentance of a nation, like any other kind, assumes 
the possibility of forgiveness on the part of the injured. But it 
is impossible to expect forgiveness before you yourself have 
made up your mind to forgive. The path of mutual repen- 
tance and mutual forgiveness is one and the same. 

Who has no guilt? We are all guilty. But at some point the 
endless account must be closed, we must stop discussing 
whose crimes are more recent, more serious and affect most 
victims. It is useless for even the closest neighbors to com- 
pare the duration and gravity of their grievances against each 
other. But feelings of penitence can be compared. 

This picture does not seem to me an idyll, unreal and irrel- 
evant to our modem situation. On the contrary. Just as it is 
impossible to build a good society when relations between 
people are bad, there will never be a good world while na- 
tions are on bad terms and secretly cherish the desire for 
revenge. Neither a “positive” foreign policy nor yet the most 
skillful efforts on the part of diplomats to draw up tactfully 
incomplete treaties so that each side can find some balm for 
its national pride — none of this can smother the seeds of dis- 
cord and prevent even more conflicts from arising. 

At present the whole atmosphere of the United Nations is 
saturated with hatred and spite — remember how the Assem- 
bly went wild with joy (some uninhibited members are said 
to have jumped up on the benches) when ten million Chi- 
nese on Taiwan were thrown out of the human family for 
refusing to submit to totalitarian aggression. 

Without the establishment of radically new, really good 
relations between nations the entire quest for ‘ world peace 
is either utopian or a precarious balancing act. 

The stock of mutual guilt mounts especially high in multi- 
national states and federations, like Austria-Hungary in the 
past, or the USSR, Yugoslavia, Nigeria and other African 
states with a multiplicity of tribes and races today. If such 
states are to achieve internal stability and be held together 
by something other than coercion, the peoples who live in 
them cannot possibly manage without a highly developed ca- 



pacity for repentance. Otherwise the fires will smolder for- 
ever beneath the ashes and flare up again and again, and 
these countries will never know stability. The West Pakis- 
tanis were ruthless toward those of the East — and the 
country collapsed, but still the hatred did not die down. On 
the contrary, northern Nigeria, with the help of British and 
Soviet arms and with the whole world indifferently looking 
on, took a cruel revenge on the eastern regions and preserved 
the unity of the country, but unless this wrong is righted by 
repentance and kindness on the part of the victors, that 
country will not enjoy stability and health. 

Repentance is only a clearing of the ground, the establish- 
ment of a clean basis in preparation for further moral ac- 
tions — what in the life of the individual is called “reform.” 
And if in private life what has been done must be put right 
by deeds, not words, this is all the more true in the life of a 
nation. Its repentance must be expressed not so much in ar- 
ticles, books and broadcasts as in national actions. 

With regard to all the peoples in and beyond our borders 
forcibly drawn into our orbit, we can fully purge our guilt by 
giving them genuine freedom to decide their future for them- 

After repentance, and once we renounce the use of force, 
self-limitation comes into its own as the most natural princi- 
ple to live by. Repentance creates the atmosphere for self- 

Self-limitation on the part of individuals has often been ob- 
served and described, and is well known to us all. (Quite 
apart from the pleasure it gives to those around us in our ev- 
eryday lives, it can be universally helpful to men in all areas 
of their activity.) But so for as I know, no state has ever car- 
ried through a deliberate policy of self-limitation or set itself 
such a task in a general form — though when it has done so at 
difficult moments in some particular sector (food rationing, 
fuel rationing, and so on) self-limitation has paid off hand- 

Every trade union and every corporation strives by all pos- 



sible means to win the most advantageous position in the 
economy, every firm aims at uninterrupted expansion, every 
party wants to run its country, medium-sized states want to 
become great ones, and great ones to rule the world. 

We are always very ready to limit others — this is what all 
politicians are engaged in — but nowadays the man who 
suggests that a state or party, without coercion and simply in 
answer to a moral call, should limit itself, invites ridicule. 
We are always anxiously on the lookout for ways of curbing 
the inordinate greed of the other man, but no one is heard 
renouncing his own inordinate greed. History knows of sev- 
eral occasions on which the greed of a minority was curbed, 
with much bloodshed, but who is to curb the inflamed greed 
of the majority, and how? That is something it can only do 
for itself. 

The idea of self-limitation in society is not a new one. We 
find it a century ago in such thoroughgoing Christians as the 
Russian Old Believers. In the journal Istina (No. 1,1807), i n 
an article by K. Golubov, who corresponded with Ogarev 16 
and Herzen, we read: 

“A people subjects itself to great suffering by its immoral 
acquisitiveness. That which is obtained by revolt and seques- 
tration can have no true value. These are rather the fruits of 
the overweening behavior of a corrupt conscience: the true 
and lasting good is that which is attained by farsighted self- 
limitation" (emphasis added). 

And elsewhere: “Save through self-restriction, there is no 
other true freedom for mankind/' 

After the Western ideal of unlimited freedom, after the 
Marxist concept of freedom as acceptance of the yoke of ne- 
cessity — here is the true Christian definition of freedom. 
Freedom is self-restriction I Restriction of the self for the 
sake of others! 

Once understood and adopted, this principle diverts 
us — as individuals, in all forms of human association, socie- 

16. Nikolai Ogarev (1813-1877), poet and friend of Herzen, who lived 
abroad for much of his life. He attempted to form a nationwide revolutionary 
organization out of a series of populist groups calling themselves “Land and 
Liberty.” — Trans. 



ties and nations — from outward to inward development, 
thereby giving us greater spiritual depth. 

The turn toward inward development, the triumph of in- 
wardness over outwardness, if it ever happens, will be a 
great turning point in the history of mankind, comparable to 
the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. 
There will be a complete change not only in the direction of 
our interests and activities but in the very nature of human 
beings (a change from spiritual dispersal to spiritual concen- 
tration), and a greater change still in the character of human 
societies. If in some places this is destined to be a revolu- 
tionary process, these revolutions will not be like earlier 
ones — physical, bloody and never beneficial — but will be 
moral revolutions, requiring both courage and sacrifice, 
though not cruelty — a new phenomenon in human history, 
of which little is yet known and which as yet no one has 
prophetically described in clear and precise forms. The ex- 
amination of all this does not lie within the scope of our 
present article. 

But in the material sphere too this change will have con- 
spicuous results. The individual will not flog himself to death 
in his greed for bigger and bigger earnings, but will spend 
what he has economically, rationally and calmly. The state 
will not, as it does now, use its strength — sometimes even 
with no particular end in view — simply on the principle that 
where something will give, one must exert pressure, if a bar- 
rier can be moved, move it — no, among states too the moral 
rule for individuals will be adopted — do not unto others as 
you would not have done unto you: instead, leam to use to 
the full what you have. Only thus can a well-ordered life be 
created on our planet. 

The concept of unlimited freedom is closely connected in 
its origin with the concept of infinite progress, which we now 
recognize as false. Progress in this sense is impossible on our 
earth with its limited surface area and resources. We shall in 
any case inevitably have to stop jostling each other and show 
self-restraint: with the population rapidly soaring, mother 
earth herself will shortly force us to do so. It would be spiri- 



tually so much more valuable, and psychologically so much 
easier, to adopt the principle of self-limitation — and to 
achieve it through prudent self-restriction. 

Such a change will not be easy for the free economy of the 
West. It is a revolutionary demolition and total reconstruction 
of all our ideas and aims. We must go over from uninter- 
rupted progress to a stable economy, with nil growth in terri- 
tory, parameters and tempo, developing only through 
improved technology (and even technical successes must be 
critically screened). This means that we must abjure the 
plague of expansion beyond our borders, the continual 
scramble after new markets and sources of raw material, in- 
creases in our industrial territory or the volume of produc- 
tion, the whole insane pursuit of wealth, fame and change. 
No incentive to self-limitation has ever existed in bourgeois 
economics, yet the formula would so easily and so long ago 
have been derived from moral considerations. The fun- 
damental concepts of private property and private economic 
initiative are part of man’s nature, and necessary for his per- 
sonal freedom and his sense of normal well-being. They 
would be beneficial to society if only ... if only the carriers 
of these ideas on the very threshold of development had lim- 
ited themselves, and not allowed the size of their property 
and thrust of their avarice to become a social evil, which 
provoked so much justifiable anger, not tried to purchase 
power and subjugate the press. It was as a reply to the 
shamelessness of unlimited money-grubbing that socialism 
in all its forms developed. 

But a Russian author today need not rack his brains for an 
answer to these worries. Self-limitation has countless 
aspects — international, political, cultural, national, social, 
party-political. We Russians should sort out those which con- 
cern us. 

And show an example of spiritual breadth. Show that re- 
pentance is not fruitless. 

It is in this hope and faith that I am writing this article. 

Our native land, after centuries of misapplying its might 
(both in the Petersburg and the neo-Muscovite periods), after 



making so many useless acquisitions abroad and causing so 
much destruction at home, now, before the chance is lost for- 
ever, is perhaps more than any other country in need of com- 
prehensive inward development — both spiritual, and the 
ensuing geographical, economic and social development that 
will occur as a consequence. 

Our foreign policy in recent decades might have been de- 
liberately devised in defiance of the true interests of our peo- 
ple. We have taken on ourselves a responsibility for the fate 
of Eastern Europe incommensurable with our present level 
of spiritual development and our ability to understand Euro- 
pean needs and ways. We are ready in our conceit to extend 
our responsibility to any other country, however distant, 
even on the other side of the globe, provided it declares its 
intent to nationalize the means of production and centralize 
power. (These, according to our Theory, are the primary fea- 
tures, and all the rest — national peculiarities, way of life, 
thousand-year-old cultural traditions — are secondary. We 
meddle indefatigably in conflicts on every continent, lay 
down the law, shove people into quarrels, shamelessly push 
arms till they have become our most important item of ex- 
port. We are what Soviet newspapers until the forties called 
traders in blood/’) 17 In pursuit of all these artificial aims, 
which are of no use to our nation, we have exhausted our 
strength and wrecked several of our generations — mainly 
physically in the past, but now mainly spiritually. 

All these world tasks, which have been of no use at all to 
us, have left us tired . We need to get away from the hurly- 
burly of world rivalries. And from the exhibition istic space 
race, which is useless to us: what is the point of our painful 
efforts to erect villages on the moon when our Russian vil- 
lages have become dilapidated and unfit for habitation? In 
our insane industrial drive we have drawn inordinate masses 
of people into unnatural towns and absurd, hastily erected 
buildings, where they are poisoned, collapse under nervous 

17. According to Western specialists our arms sales between 1955 and 1970 
came to the value of twenty-eight billion dollars. In the seventies our share 
of the world arms trade has been 37.5 percent. 



strain, and start degenerating in early youth. Sweated female 
labor instead of sex equality, the neglect of parental duty, 
drunkenness, loss of appetite for work, the decline of the 
school, the decadence of our native language — whole spiri- 
tual deserts are eating into our life and laying waste to great 
patches of it, and it is only in overcoming these that we can 
win for ourselves true and not bogus prestige. Should we be 
struggling for warm seas far away, or ensuring that warmth 
rather than enmity flows between our own citizens? 

And as if this were not enough, we who boast so much 
about our lead over others have slavishly copied Western 
technical progress and unthinkingly become jammed in a 
blind alley, finding ourselves together with the West in a 
crisis which threatens the existence of all mankind. 

A family which has suffered a great misfortune or disgrace 
tries to withdraw into itself for a time to get over its grief by 
itself. This is what the Russian people must do: spend most 
of its time alone with itself without neighbors and guests. It 
must concentrate on its inner tasks: on healing its soul, edu- 
cating its children, putting its own house in order. 

The healing of our souls 1 Nothing now is more important to 
us after all that we have lived through, after our long com- 
plicity in lies and even crimes. It may be too late for the 
older generations, but this only means that we must work 
with even greater zeal and selflessness to bring up our chil- 
dren, so that when they grow up they will be incomparably 
purer than our fallen society. The school — that is the key to 
the future of Russial But it is a complicated and contradictory 
problem: bad parents and teachers must rear better people to 
follow them. It cannot be solved in one generation. It will 
require immense efforts. The whole public educational sys- 
tem must be created anew, and not with rejects but with the 
people’s best forces. It will cost billions — and we should 
take them from our vainglorious and unnecessary foreign ex- 
penditure. We must stop running out into the street to join 
every brawl and instead retire virtuously into our own home 
so long as we are in such a state of disorder and confusion. 

Fortunately we have such a home, a spacious and un- 



sullied home preserved for us by history — the Russian 
Northeast. Let us give up trying to restore order overseas, 
keep our grabbing imperial hands off neighbors who want to 
live their own lives in freedom — and turn our national and 
political zeal toward the untamed expanses of the Northeast, 
whose emptiness is becoming intolerable to our neighbors 
now that life on earth is so tight packed. 

The Northeast means the north of European Russia — 
Pinega, Mezen, Pechora — it means too the Lena and the 
whole central zone of Siberia north of the railway line, which 
is to this day deserted, in places virgin territory and un- 
known — there are hardly any open spaces like it left on the 
civilized earth. And then too the tundra and permafrost of the 
Lower Ob, Yamal, Taimyr, Khatango, Indigirka, Kolyma, 
Chukotka and Kamchatka cannot be abandoned in despair, 
given the technological skills — and the population prob- 
lems — of the twenty-first century. 

The Northeast is the wind in our faces described by Volo- 
shin: 18 “In that wind is the whole destiny of Russia.” The 
Northeast is the outward vector, which has long indicated the 
direction of Russia’s natural movement and development. It 
was appreciated by Novgorod, but neglected by Muscovite 
Russia, partly opened up by a spontaneous movement that 
took place without state encouragement, then by the forced 
flight of the Old Believers. Peter the Great failed to see its 
significance, and in the last half century it has in effect been 
overlooked, despite all the sensational plans. 

The Northeast is a reminder that Russia is the northeast of 
the planet, that our ocean is the Arctic, not the Indian Ocean, 
that we are not the Mediterranean nor Africa and that we 
have no business there 1 These boundless expanses, sense- 
lessly left stagnant and icily barren for four centuries, await 
our hands, our sacrifices, our zeal and our love. But it may be 
that we have only two or three decades left for this work: 
otherwise the imminent world population explosion will take 
these expanses away from us. 

18. Maximilian Voloshin (1878-1932), post-Symbolist poet and artist noted 
for his nightmarish visions of the revolution and the civil war.— Trans. 



The Northeast is also the key to many apparently intricate 
Russian problems. Instead of casting greedy eyes on lands 
which do not really belong to us, or in which we are not in 
the majority, we should be directing our forces and urging 
our young people toward the Northeast — that is the far- 
sighted solution. Its great expanses offer us a way out of the 
worldwide technological crisis. They offer us plenty of room 
in which to correct all our idiocies in building towns, indus- 
trial enterprises, power stations and roads. Its cold and in 
places permanently frozen soil is still not ready for cultiva- 
tion, it will require enormous inputs of energy — but the 
energy lies hidden in the depths of the Northeast itself since 
we have not yet had time to squander it. 

The Northeast could not be brought to life by camp watch- 
towers, the yells of armed guards and the barking of man-eat- 
ing dogs. Only free people with a free understanding of our 
national mission can resurrect these great spaces, awaken 
them, heal them, beautify them with feats of engineering. 

The Northeast — more than just a musical sound and more 
than just a geographical concept — will signify that Russia 
has resolutely opted for self -limitation, for turning inward 
rather than outward. In its whole future life — national, so- 
cial, personal, in the schools and in the family — it will con- 
centrate its efforts on inward, not outward, growth. 

This does not mean that we shall shut ourselves up within 
ourselves forever. This would not be in accordance with the 
outgoing Russian character. When we have recovered our 
health and put our house in order we shall undoubtedly want 
to help poor and backward peoples, and succeed in doing so. 
But not out of political self-interest, not to make them live as 
we do or serve us. 

Some may wonder how far a nation, society or state can go 
in self-limitation. Unlike the individual, a whole people can- 
not afford the luxury of impulsive and totally self-sacrificing 
decisions. If a people has gone over to self-limitation, but its 
neighbors have not, must it be ready to resist aggression? 

Yes, of course. Defense forces must be retained, but only 
for genuinely defensive purposes, only on a scale adequate to 


real and not imaginary threats, not as an end in themselves, 
not as a self-perpetuating tradition, not to maintain the size 
and glamour of the high command. They will be retained in 
the hope that the whole atmosphere of mankind will soon 
begin to change. 

And if it does not change, the Club of Rome has done the 
arithmetic: we have less than a hundred years to live. 

November 1973 


The Direction of Change 


At the beginning of this century, to the bewilderment (and 
annoyance) of many who thought themselves sufficiently in 
tune with the “spirit of the age,” there appeared in Russian 
society a broad movement toward philosophic idealism. A 
certain Kiev professor observed at the time that this interest 
in idealism and the amount of attention devoted to it demon- 
strated individual faith in the writers who preached it, rather 
than any genuine readiness on the part of society as a whole 
to abandon philosophic positivism and the various forms of 
philosophic materialism that had taken root in our country. 
One gets the impression, he said, that society is now faced 
with an urgent question — where does truth lie, in idealism 
or positivism? But society is not yet ready to provide an an- 
swer: “The ground on which the seed of idealism might 
bring forth abundantly has yet to be plowed. Positivism ex- 
ploits this situation so as to maintain its dominance.” 

These words, spoken seventy years ago, have turned out to 
be prophetic. Positivism, unscrupulous as to means, has held 
on to power for nearly a century. But today Russian society 
feces the same question once more. Once more an answer is 
urgently demanded, while society seems all the less pre- 
pared for it, all the more caught unawares. “Truly one has to 



admit that our society is in a lamentable state. This absence 
of public opinion, this indifference to duty, justice and truth, 
this cynical contempt for human thought and dignity can lead 
only to despair/' Pushkin's words, but they could have been 
uttered today. And on the face of it one is left repeating those 
words about “unplowed ground." 

But history moves in a mysterious way and lends itself 
little to logical analysis. The path of reason and cognition, 
based on the gradual exercise of thought and the accumula- 
tion of judgments logically arrived at, is not the only one pos- 
sible either for society or for the individual, and it is not the 
most important. There is also the path of lived spiritual expe- 
rience, the path of integral intuitive perception. 

Has our own history of the past seventy years not taught us 
something? It has been a harsh and terrible period. Many 
times it has seemed that “Russia was dead," that “the old 
Russia no longer existed," that the preference of facelessness 
to individuality had caused the whole nation to lose itself. 
But was this really so? Did not a handful of Russian poets 
and writers survive those years? And surely the killings and 
tortures we experienced did not shape only nonentities? We 
had our martyrs and heroes. And even when they went un- 
heard and unrecognized they were preparing the way for the 
rebirth of society to some sort of a new life. 

Early as it is to draw definite conclusions, I believe an an- 
swer of sorts to the question “Where is the truth?" is already 
emerging. Just as the body rejects a foreign implant, there is 
now in progress a rejection of “positive philosophy" and all 
its accompanying official ideology: our society is covering it 
with a scab of skepticism, so that this graft is no longer at- 
tached to the living soul, as it was seventy or a hundred years 
ago, but is rejected by it. 

But that is not enough. We need new spiritual energies, a 
source of positive influence. Let us dare to express the cau- 
tious hope that such an influence for good already exists in 
our society. Mysteriously and unsuspected by the busy multi- 
tude, Christian consciousness, once almost defunct, is steal- 
ing back. In the last few years Christianity's word has 



suddenly and miraculously evoked a response in the hearts 
of many whose whole education, way of life and fashionable 
ideas about "alienation” and the historical pessimism of con- 
temporary art would seem to have cut them off from it irrevo- 
cably. It is as if a door had opened while nobody was 

Why is this rebirth taking place in our country, where 
Christianity is attacked particularly systematically and with 
great brutality, while the rest of the world suffers a general 
decline in faith and religious feeling? Once again our history 
over the last fifty years provides a clue to one of the reasons. 
We have passed through such bottomless pits, we have been 
so exposed to all the winds of Kolyma , 1 we have experienced 
such utter exhaustion of human resources that we have 
learned to see the “one essential” that cannot be taken away 
from man, and we have learned not to look to human re- 
sources for succor. In glorious destitution, in utter defense- 
lessness in the face of suffering, our hearts have been 
kindled by an inner spiritual warmth and have opened to 
new, unexpected impulses. 

Now, when the walls of our houses have become a little 
warmer and less collapsible, we are haunted by an obscure 
but insistent foreboding of impending historical change. It 
manifests itself in the general feeling that “things cannot go 
on like this” and as yet has assumed no fixed shape. But the 
shape of our future development is, of course, the more im- 
portant question of our time. It will form itself somehow, but 
everything depends on how precisely. 

Two factors I have mentioned — the return of Christian 
consciousness and the presentiment of change — mark the 
special responsibilities of our time. . 

It is hard not to link the two. In fact, backsliding and de- 
nials notwithstanding, we live in a Christian culture in a 
Christian age, and it is Christianity that is the fermenting 
agent, the “yeast of the world,” causing history to rise like 
dough in a trough, not only in the past but in the future as 

i. Kolyma: a river and a region in northeast Siberia noted for its harsh cli- 
mate. Some of the worst labor camps were situated in this region.— Tbans. 



well. We are profoundly convinced that Christianity alone 
possesses enough motive force gradually to inspire and trans- 
form our world. Therefore the only question that remains is 
how profoundly we succeed in unders tandin g this fact and 
embodying it in our lives in our time. 

Acknowledging this, we must consider what we should do 
and what we should strive for. Christianity is more than a 
system of views, it is a way of life. Much has been well writ- 
ten about this and well lived, beginning with the apostles 
and ending with our own contemporaries. It would be wrong 
now to snatch something hastily from this vast and priceless 
living experience just to drape over the feebleness of our 
deeds and thoughts. 

The briefest inspection of our pitiful arsenal will be suf- 
ficient to convince us that it is quite unequal to the tasks 
before us. 

When we think of the necessity for change, our thoughts 
follow the beaten path to “decentralization of die system” or 
‘ the struggle for social reconstruction.” The most dynamic 
and resolute forces in our society are already hankering for 
such a struggle, not to mention those who are always glad to 
escape inner emptiness through outward activity. But as we 
already know, the fallacy of all revolutions is that they are 
strong and concrete on the negative and destructive side, and 
limp and abstract on the positive and creative side. This is 
how Dostoyevsky defined the underlying cause: “The bee 
knows the formula of its hive and the ant the formula of its 
anthills, but man does not know his formula.” The reason 
why man does not know his formula is that, unlike the bee 
and the ant, which are not free, man is free. Freedom is 
man’s formula, but he will never find it so long as he seeks it 
in parties and ideologies, however good they may be in 

This freedom is not man’s “natural” inheritance, but rather 
the aim of his life and a “supernatural” gift. “Servitude to 
sin” is how Christianity defines the normal condition of 
man’s soul and it summons man to free himself from this ser- 



The path of heroic spiritual striving is the only path that 
can lead man — and the whole of society — to freedom. The 
authors of the Vekhi ( Landmarks ) 2 anthology wrote of these 
things seventy years ago (S. Bulgakov and S. Frank in partic- 
ular), but few understood them at the time. 

So is it not time, after almost two hundred years of obses- 
sion with the "‘social idea,” to turn to this path, clearing our 
minds of the ideal of the fighter and replacing it with the 
ideal of the visionary. What a word — the modem tongue can 
scarcely pronounce it, so accustomed are we in our arrogance 
to reject this ideal from the lofty heights of our struggle for 
the “common cause”! The nearest words our vocabulary can 
find for this goal are now “self-improvement” and the theory 
of “small causes.” What a blunder! What a stubborn refusal to 
come to our senses! 

The point is not that we should cease to strive for a better 
social order, but that the truth about this order is one of those 
truths that cannot be grasped by reason, but can only be 
learned by living and acting, and are accessible only to a con- 
sciousness that is already enlightened. And until we bring 
about a change in ourselves, even the best-intentioned at- 
tempts to restructure anything “from outside” by decree or 
by force are doomed at best to come to naught, as in Repeti- 
lov’s 8 “We are making a commotion, my friend,” and at 
worst to end in Dostoyevsky’s Possessed , with all the logical 
consequences that we know so well. 

The age we are now living in is a vital one for our nation. 
Historical action has time limits, and if the chance is missed 
it will be a very long time before it presents itself again. One 
may well ask: “How is it that ye do not discern this time?” 
(Luke 12:56). Will we have the perception and determination 
to reform our nature from inside and through this our com- 
mon life? 

Suffering and sorrow ennoble the individual and society 
alike, so long as they are correctly understood and accepted. 

2. See Introduction, pages v-vi. — Trans. 

3. Repetilov: A garrulous would-be revolutionary in Woe from Wit, a play in 
verse written by Alexander Griboyedov (1795-1829). — Trans. 



But if (like many others, for any number of reasons) we are 
unwilling to recognize the responsibility we bear for this 
present page of our history, if we attempt simply to forget 
these sufferings and to live as if nothing had happened, eras- 
ing them from our history, as it were, then we are doomed. 
Then we shall again be obliged to continue between two par- 
allel processes: the eradication of the smallest stirrings of the 
living soul and thought from above, and the swelling of im- 
potent hatred and rage from below. In this way good will be 
repelled on both fronts, until “history repeats itself” and 
punishes us for our obduracy. 

We must conserve and assimilate the vast spiritual strength 
for which we in our country have paid so dearly. We must 
transform it into an inward fortress of resistance to lies and 
violence, to the point of laying down our lives if necessary. 
And this transformation must take place within our souls. 

It will be very difficult. Now especially, when the path of 
spiritual striving is in direct conflict with every contemporary 
aspiration of mankind; when “rising material demands” 
(egged on by every kind of advertising) and the capacity to 
fulfill those demands are regarded to all intents and purposes 
as the main criterion of the level of a society’s development; 
when incessant interference — by television, cinema, sport 
and newspapers — drowns the inner voice. Now the accessi- 
bility of travel and entertainment acts as a constant distrac- 
tion from our inner affairs. The world has never seemed so 
noisy. Never has the entertainment industry, the industry of 
the spiritual pabulum of “mass information,” so completely 
dominated mankind. This is why men feel such terrible spiri- 
tual chaos inside them, this is why they have lost touch with 
reality, this is why truth has become so dangerously relative. 
Genuine reality and genuine activity have been hunted 
down and cast out. Waves of aimless external irritation toss 
us hither and thither on the surface of the sea of life. 

Christianity teaches the concept of “abstinence” — the 
cleansing of the soul, spiritual repose, the aspiration toward 
inner simplicity and harmony. We should begin with this, for 
only to the abstinent spirit is truth revealed, and only truth 



liberates. There is no need to begin with external solutions. 
We must achieve the sort of spiritual condition that enables 
solutions to be dictated from within by the immutable laws of 
compassion and love. Mysterious inner freedom, once 
achieved, will give us a sense of community with everybody 
and responsibility for all. So long as we achieve it in fact, not 
merely in wishful thinking, everything else will come of its 
own accord. 

Without it, on the other hand, any social order will be no 
more than “iron and clay mixed by human hands.” 

But we are confused. In the search for a solution our eyes 
habitually turn toward the West. There they have “progress” 
and “democracy.” But in the West the most sensitive people 
are trying, with similar alarm and hope, to learn something 
from us. They assume, probably not unreasonably, that our 
harsh and oppressed life has taught us something that might 
be able to counteract the artificiality and soullessness of their 
own world — something that they have lost in all their 
worldly bustle. 

So perhaps if we can assimilate our experience and some- 
how put it to use, it may serve to complement Europe’s expe- 
rience. Then Russia will escape Chaadayev’s 4 bitter 
prophecy of being nothing but a yawning void, an object les- 
son to other nations. 

Nestor the chronicler 5 compared our people to the “elev- 
enth horn laborers.” If instead of standing around in the mar- 
ketplace we answer the call of the Vineyard Owner, we shall 
not be too late at the end of the day to receive the same wage 
as the rest 

4. P. Y. Chaadayev (1793-1856), a pro-Catholic political thinker whose 
Philosophical Letters circulated clandestinely in early-nineteenth-century 
Russia. After one of them was published in 1836, Tsar Nicholas I placed 
Chaadayev under permanent house arrest and ordered medical supervision 
of his mental health. 

5. Nestor was a Kievan monk who compiled the best known of all the Rus- 
sian medieval chronicles, “The Primary Chronicle,” in the eleventh century. 


Russian Destinies 


To the memory of Father Pavel Florensky 

Father Pavel Florensky, who was murdered in one of the 
labor camps of northern Russia, so that to this day the 
whereabouts of his grave is unknown to the world, wrote 
these words sixty years ago, in his book The Pillar and 
Ground of the Truth: “As the end of History draws nearer, 
the domes of the Holy Church begin to reflect the new, al- 
most imperceptible, rosy light of the approaching Undying 
Day.” Father Pavel is obviously not speaking here merely in 
metaphors and images; his words are the testimony of a Rus- 
sian genius to the reality and truth perceived by him and em- 
bodied in his published works, and show an intensity of 
thought in the search for Christ which is amazing even for 
the Russian cultural tradition. 

But then, does the passing of sixty years mean anything at 
all in the context of such meditations on the nature of time? 
And are we able to say that the Undying Day has come 
nearer to us, in that what Russia has experienced in this cen- 
tury has given us a truer ability than before to sense the 
approach of that day, and to see more clearly the full extent 
of our sin in its impending fire? What significance can sixty 
years have, when to God a thousand years are as one day? Or 
have the hardships endured by the Russian people altered 



the true value of time, since the people’s soul cries out for an 
end to its sufferings? 

We should, of course, recognize the temptation inherent in 
such thoughts — the temptation to exaggerate our own trou- 
bles, to ignore the last two thousand years of human history, 
to forget that “the Lord chastises those whom he loves’’ 
(Heb. 12:6). But if you have not yet realized this, what are 
you to do when it is considered normal to pour abuse on all 
that is holy, and the savagery and corruption permeating our 
society are thought merely matters for political and philo- 
sophical speculation? What are you to do when you and your 
people seem to have come to the limit of human endurance, 
when you find yourself feeing a blank wall that looms in front 
of you and stops all light from reaching you, when your 
knocking cannot be heard, when your cries are stifled as if by 
cotton wool, when you are already prepared to end it all, to 
die, even though you realize quite clearly the senselessness 
of self-immolation? 

But one day, in the midst of your utter confusion and de- 
spair, you are suddenly brought up short by the light of an 
inner peace seen on the face of a chance acquaintance. A 
long time passes before you understand the providential 
meaning of this encounter, when you see passing before your 
mind’s eye the same kind of feces one by one — feces which 
have accompanied every step of your life from its very 
beginning, and you relive each one of those encounters. You 
remember the girl soldier who shared a small piece of bread 
and a mug of soup with you when you were a hungry little 
boy, you remember the old man in a railway carriage, cross- 
ing himself as a church flashed by outside the icy carriage 
window, the old woman in black who held out her chapped, 
grimy palm to you. You remember also the books you always 
loved, not knowing why you loved them — books that 
breathed eternal peace, rending your soul with the sufferings 
of those who sought God, wrestled with God and lived in His 
presence. Then you visualize scenes from the history of the 
land where you were bom and bred, and where you will be 
buried. And everything that formerly seemed nothing but a 


senseless accumulation of facts and events, the manifestation 
of an evil power, a fatal combination of circumstances or 
merely proof of the ambition, cruelty and pettiness of those 
in power, the stupidity and savagery of the men who for 
some incomprehensible reason existed around you — all this 
is unexpectedly illumined by the lofty concept of Destiny. 
You now understand His purpose in all things — in the flying 
snow that for half a year covers woods and pastures, cities 
and rivers, in the golden magnificence of autumn, in the won- 
derful skies of Russia — pale, cold, appeased. You re-create 
all this later, much later, bit by bit, drawing it from the inner- 
most recesses of your soul, but this “new life,” this unending 
work, begins at that moment when you submit, for the first 
time, to the involuntary promptings of your troubled soul and 
step across the threshold of a church, still glancing timidly at 
the others kneeling there, who have not entered merely on a 
passing impulse. 

What have you brought with you into this church? What 
have you left outside its portals? Can you, having confessed 
and partaken of the Holy Sacraments, renounce everything 
that formerly filled your life — its problems, its pleasures and 
disappointments, its varied experiences, your own already 
formed and cherished ideas of good and evil, the weariness 
of spirit bom of the world’s cares? These are some of the 
most complex questions of our time. Today, when the ice 
covering the entire length and breadth of the huge landmass 
called Russia is in the process of breaking up, a process that 
has been going on underground, unnoticed for many long 
years, at a time when mere fashionable interest and curiosity 
about religion have been swept away by a genuine and avid 
demand for the Word of God, when priests are run off their 
feet trying to satisfy the spiritual needs of their flock and still 
fall short of the demand — today all the complicated and dif- 
ficult, traditional and at the same time sharply topical, ac- 
cursed Russian questions mingle and fester in this larger 

The efficacy of the sacrament of confession necessarily 
requires the destruction of the strong attraction which the sin 



you have overcome still has for you, the effacement and scour- 
ing out of that sin from the penitent soul. Everything that is 
of the self, that “is not of my Heavenly Father s planting” 
(Matt. 15:13) must be rooted out, tom up and abandoned for- 
ever, for it is in any case subject to the threat of eternal 
annihilation and the agony of a second death. 

Can we really imagine that this process of the soul cleans- 
ing itself of festering sin by purging itself with fire while still 
here in this life occurs as a single, rounded-off act of baptism 
or return to the Church? Does the egoistic self having 
lodged securely in your soul, really depart so easily? 

The genuflecting Church floats in flickering candlelight, 
which lights up the meek feces of those “fools in Christ” 
with whom you have lived side by side your whole life but 
whom you have never noticed; the words of the prayers, 
which you do iiot know, slip past you without entering your 
heart, and in your soul, still so full of impurity and self-love, 
a suppressed rebellion begins to stir. 

But why, when you have resolved on such an incredible 
act of heroism, destroying your whole former life, surmount- 
ing the disgusted incredulity of your former friends and 
workmates, when you have renounced (as you imagine) the 
world and its temptations and entered the Church with (as 
you think) your soul bared — why are you not received with 
joy and gratitude, like the prodigal son, why is there no fotted 
calf, why is there no welcome for such courage on your part, 
why does no one talk to you in a language you can under- 
stand, why do they take no notice of your readiness to sacri- 
fice yourself, nor have any respect for your learned theories 
combining the latest achievements of the natural sciences 
with modem philosophical ideas, nor your irony or artistic 
taste? Why does the Church seem to see no difference be- 
tween you who have come so tragically to help and “save” 
the Church, and some old woman merely “seeking salvation” 
for herself through the Church in her dull, traditional way? 
Perhaps it is hue, after all, that the Church fears those in 
power, that she bows to the earthly authorities and shows her 
gratitude to the atheist Moloch for not interfering with her 



and sparing her for the time being by pretending not to see 
that, in essence, she has nothing to offer twentieth-century 
man, that she is indifferent to the real suffering of our time, 
that she loves abstractions and provides little more than con- 
solation and escape from the world, that all she insists on is 
the formal loyalty of her parishioners. Anyway, who are all 
these priests, archpriests and metropolitans — what are their 
real relations with the regime? Surely the government, which 
persecutes liberal thought, has some reason for closing its 
eyes to the existence of this undoubtedly archaic and alien 

The last thing I want to do is analyze the phenomenon of 
the “consciousness of the intelligentsia” — even in its novel 
situation as today’s novitiate. The journal Vekhi 1 exhausted 
the subject of the decay of the intelligentsia; and the sub- 
sequent fate of the intelligentsia, unwilling to heed the warn- 
ings and prophecies of Vekhi, evolved exactly as the latter 
had predicted. The disease had already been diagnosed and 
the antidote indicated. So let the dead bury their dead. . . . 

Nevertheless, this problem has not been solved, it still 
exists and you can’t get away from it Our vast country lies 
silent but voices speak in its name. Some are purified and 
matured by sorrow and suffering, but other voices can be 
heard in whose modem, humanistic phraseology the inexpe- 
rienced may not immediately recognize the same old devil 
with his horns and hooves, the same old Peter Verkho- 
vensky , 2 with his old collection of nostrums, insolence and 
thoughtless ignorance. 

Our land longs for the Word; its churches have been de- 
stroyed and desecrated, but Bibles and Gospels are still as 
much in demand on the black market as the works of modem 
poets. However, this happens only in Moscow and in the 
large towns; in the provinces, believers are reduced to blot- 
ting out the antireligious patter in atheist pamphlets, leaving 
only the quotations from the Scriptures intact. I cannot forget 

1. See Introduction, pages v-vi. — Trans. 

2. One of the principal characters in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed. 



the old man I saw on the steps of a Moscow church. “Chris- 
tian people,” he was saying, “I’m from Kursk — everything 
we had there has been burned. Couldn’t anyone give me just 
one small book about God — please, in the name of Christ!” 
But we have no interest in such places as Kursk and 
Mtsensk. After half a century of punishment for being carried 
away by our own personal experiences, we still continue to 
suffer only on our own behalf, imagining our problems to be 
the only ones worthy of attention and sympathy. All that stirs 
us is our unquenchable thirst for instant justice, we continue 
to nurse our own heroism, knowing nothing of true suffer- 
the source of that peace and light endlessly irradiating 
the Russian Orthodox Church. We are always beginning from 
a tabula rasa, always inventing new toys, but our indifference 
and lack of respect for the riches we already possess is not a 
sign of our broad-mindedness, but of unforgivable ignorance 
and insensitivity, which can no longer be borne and should 
no longer be admired. We have no sooner stepped over the 
threshold of the Church than, even before falling on our 
knees before its holiness, we venture to begin “feeding” the 
Church with the intelligentsia’s nonsensical moralism, hand- 
ing out the same old anti-Christian structure and forgetting 
the long road already traveled by the Russian intelligentsia, 
from the “childlike prattle” of Belinsky 3 to the insolence of 
Pisarev, 4 and from the armed bullying of the Bolsheviks to 
the empty “liberal thought” of today. Knowing nothing of true 
culture ourselves, we cut up its living body with the frivolity 
of a Khlestakov: 6 we swear by the names of Rublev, 6 Push- 
kin, Dostoyevsky and Blok, 7 while at the same time rejecting 

3- V. G. Belinsky (1811-1848), the leading critic of the early nineteenth cen- 
tury and a champion of liberalism and socially committed litem- 
ture. — Trans. 

4. D. I. Pisarev (1841-1868), a radical literary critic who considered himself 
one of Belinsky s heirs and became the apostle of Nihilistic material- 
ism.— Trans. 

5. The hero of Gogol’s The Inspector-General . — Trans. 

6. Andrei Rublev (1370-1430), a monk and Russia’s greatest icon painter. — 


7. Alexander Blok (1880-1921), celebrated Symbolist poet and prominent 
Russian literary figure in the period leading up to the prominent revolu- 
tion. — Trans. 



St. Sergius of Radonezh , 8 St. Serafim of Sarov , 9 the Fathers of 
Optyna 10 and Father Pavel Florensky, without whom a full 
understanding of the nature of their contemporaries' genius 
is hardly possible. Insisting that the Revelation, the Word, all 
that the Divine Liturgy and the writings of the Holy Fathers 
contain, are not enough to satisfy contemporary philosophers 
and contemporary man in general, we appeal to “contempo- 
rary thought" — to Western philosophy, the Enlightenment 
and humanism, forgetting that all the wise words of the En- 
lightenment led only to the Paris Convention and the guillo- 
tine, even as the selfless purity of the Russian Nihilists and 
the People's Will 11 group led to the Lubyanka 12 and to Ko- 
lyma . 13 

It is quite possible to imagine a model of this kind of prob- 
ably quite unsanctified “return" to religion, to faith and the 
Orthodox Church. Such a “conversion" would not involve 
any doubt as to the truth of the intelligentsia's secular faith, 
but would be rather a renunciation of the intelligentsia envi- 
ronment with its self-satisfied confidence in itself. This is the 
same path of pride, but one which reflects a despair of really 
changing anything in our monstrous reality. It is the path of 
compromise and coming to terms with oneself — the ex- 
change of one set of concepts for another, the interpolation of 

8. A fourteenth-century monk who founded the famous Monastery of the 
Holy Trinity northeast of Moscow in 1337 and spearheaded a monastic re- 
vival through his example of asceticism and toil. — Trans. 

9. A nineteenth-century monk who revived the tradition of asceticism and 
self-renunciation in the Russian monasteries and emphasized personal hu- 
mility and service to the people. — Trans. 

10. The name given to the monks of Optyna Monastery south of Moscow in 
the nineteenth century. The most famous of them was Father Ambrose, por- 
trayed as Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov. The monastery was 
regularly visited by prominent intellectuals of the time, including Do- 
stoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Vladimir Solovyov. — Trans. 

11. The name of a militant revolutionary organization established in 1879 
with the object of overthrowing tsarism. It was responsible for the assassina- 
tion of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. — Trans. 

12. The most notorious of the Soviet secret police prisons and the one to 
which most of the prominent victims of Stalin's purges were sent. It houses 
the headquarters of the secret police and is situated on Dzerzhinsky Square 
in the center of Moscow. — Trans. 

13. See note on page 146. — Trans. 



a certain attractive symbolism and of a beautiful metaphorical 
language into the commonly accepted, boringly familiar way 
of looking at the world. At the same time, nothing much 
seems to change, least of all “I Myself,” with my freedom- 
loving, struggling soul’s vast experience of life, my set code 
of morals, standards and truth, my great wealth of knowledge 
of the latest twentieth-century achievements, which surpass 
all previous achievements of human culture and have man- 
aged to throw off the dross of two thousand years of supersti- 
tion. Besides, when I come to the Church I come into contact 
with the mysterious life of the people who, strangely enough 
(probably because of the humility and slavish obedience they 
have been endlessly praised for), have preserved this decay- 
ing institution in all its poetic charm. I am no longer alone, 
no longer one of a group of “heroes” (for whom, as the terri- 
ble past and recent experiences have shown, the road to be- 
trayal and treachery is so simple and easy). How tempting it 
is now to use this beautiful ancient institution as a vehicle for 
one’s own beneficial aims, to enrich it with modem intellec- 
tual insight, to shake up its hoary ideas and from here, from 
the eminence of the pulpit, to address — not the same old 
crowd of like-minded associates, with their sordid affairs and 
intrigues, but the people themselves, the whole wide coun- 
try, those whom their entire history has taught to listen and 
to preserve the Word spoken here. After all, like Tolstoy, I 
have not “gone out of my mind” so that, like some old 
woman, I seriously believe that one and three are the same, 
that the world was created in six days, that angels and devils 
actually exist — but I “accept” the rules of the game, sanc- 
tified by centuries, I am ready even to gulp down wine di- 
luted with water and chew dry bread “cut in the proper 
way,” for I am convinced that all those around me “know the 
truth” as well as I do. Nor am I being sacrilegious when I do 
this — I observe the ritual in order to be not alone but with 
all the others: faith demands such garments, so I squeeze 
myself into them, for I have no other choice. 

However, if in spite of my squeamishness I am willing to 
climb into a garment so worn-out and smelling of a thousand 



years of ignorance, and, like everyone else, to wear it pre- 
tending that I find it light and comfortable, then I am in no 
condition to undergo an inner transformation. I cannot “un- 
derstand” — and so accept — that, for instance, the Orthodox 
Church is the only true Church, that all other Christians — 
and also unbelievers (about whose personal merits I may be 
quite convinced) — are living in a state of untruth, enticed 
and deluded by the devil, that their beliefs are definitely 
heretical or misguided and have no place either in the 
Church or in my consciousness; and that, for some reason, I 
must unfailingly deny the relevance of their “truth” and their 
“faith.” Why? We cross ourselves in one way — they cross 
themselves in another; they walk around the altar in a dif- 
ferent direction, or sing “alleluia” differently; they have a 
pope — we have a patriarch; for us the Spirit proceeds from 
the Father, not from the Father and the Son. But is there not 
something more important which reconciles all these dif- 
ferences? Have I really come here to exchange external in- 
justice for an even more repugnant injustice within the 
Church? Because I cannot live freely, am I to renounce the 
right to think freely? Surely this leads straight to the burn- 
ings at the stake with which they used to regulate the truth in 
the reign of good Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich and which have 
now, in our more humane age, been so easily replaced by 
labor camps and long-term prisons. And that is why I insist 
on the necessity of ecumenism as a first principle — before I 
have yet had a chance to become either Orthodox, or Catho- 
lic, or Protestant, with no understanding of the nature of our 
tragic schisms, for I see no sane explanation for them that 
would correspond to the spirit of the present age, except for 
Tolstoy’s formulation: “The Summ hussars consider the best 
regiment in the world to be the Summ hussars, while the 
yellow Uhlans consider the best regiment to be the yellow 

This model only superficially resembles L. Tolstoy’s Con- 
fession. Tolstoy wrote that the family, science, business and 
the salvation of mankind are “all illusion and stupid illu- 
sion,” that “there is nothing humorous or witty, everything is 



just cruel and stupid.” All religions and philosophies — from 
Solomon, Buddhism and the Greek sages to Kant and Scho- 
penhauer — were subjected by him to a frantic rational anal- 
ysis and only confirmed the monstrous absurdity of life, 
reviewed as they were by a man who could not renounce his 
own rationalism. The way of faith, of attempting to under- 
stand a characteristic of consciousness shared by millions and 
millions of ordinary people — not “philosophers and learned 
men” who found a meaning in some incomprehensible “de- 
spicable false learning” — this was in fact the only way for 
Tolstoy, the only possibility of escape from the rope, the 
knife, or the railway track. The tragic events of his life — his 
denial of the Church and its Truth, his inability to under- 
stand the Incarnation and the Resurrection, original sin and 
the Atonement, his confusion when faced by the sacra- 
ments — reveal that same old tendency to deify Man, with 
his inability to resist temptation, that same alluring path of 
unswerving cast-iron logic, leading ultimately to the An- 
tichrist and the Grand Inquisitor. In spite of this, Tolstoy’s 
fearless integrity held no trace of self-interest, or, rather, of 
calculation; his soul passionately longed to find some kind of 
meaning in life that would not be destroyed by the inevita- 
bility of death. 

In the modem model I have given there is, in spite of the 
similarity of the conclusions drawn, no trace of Tolstoy’s 
tragic ability to grasp the essence of a question. Nowadays 
there is no attempt to understand another’s experience, not 
even that of a close friend; everything takes the form of a 
fashionable world-weariness and the moralizing sophistries 
of Ivan Karamazov returning his “ticket.” Before I have even 
crossed the threshold of the Church, I hold her responsible 
for a child’s tears, not taking the trouble to consider that, out- 
side the Church, I will never find a meaning for those tor- 
tured tears, and so will not even be able to wipe them away. 
I refuse to believe that my moralism, my thirst for “justice,” 
my dream of founding a heaven on earth, has already re- 
sulted in our present-day ocean of tears, and that — as stated 



in the sequel to Vekhi, De Profundis 14 — there are grounds 
for regarding even Tolstoy’s worldly moralism, so pure and 
unselfish compared with my own, as one of the sources of 
Russian revolutionary philosophy, with its demand for the 
immediate establishment of goodness on earth, and of the ac- 
tual results of that demand. 

One can also imagine a slight variation of the same model. 
I come to the Church, fully armed with faith and learning, 
having despaired of my former life and broken away from it. I 
know how much I shall benefit from my return to the 
Church, I have thrown all my energy and maturity of spirit 
into it, and the words of revelation, the ways and traditions of 
Orthodoxy, have become for me as unquestionably true as 
the laws of arithmetic. I understand the importance of the 
outward forms, but I still think it unreasonable that I, with all 
I have to offer, should be standing here in the crowd with 
those who are truly unenlightened, who understand nothing 
but the service; surely it is absurd to consider me no dif- 
ferent from them? Besides, do I really need an intermediary 
in a priest’s vestment, of whose human weaknesses I am in 
no doubt, and whose learning and spiritual gifts I have every 
reason to suspect? I am not, of course, a Protestant, I am 
aware of the undying eminence of the Mystical Church, but 
in this situation, considering this Church’s actual empirical 
insignificance and slavish dependence on an atheist power, 
what spiritual food can it give me? And already, at this point, 
despite knowing about it, I have forgotten that pride of spirit 
is one of the worst sins, “the first and last of all evils” (St. 
Gregory Sinaiticus), that a little humility and meekness are 
worth more than all my learning, and already I want to re- 
treat, to stay in myselfl So the world of my soul becomes for 
me the only Church, and this shrine has nothing to do with 
the insignificance of historical Russian Orthodoxy. I intend to 
sacrifice myself for the Orthodox, to pray for their sins: they 
would not understand freedom, even if it were given to them, 
and in fact they don’t need it — for how many centuries has 
14. See Introduction, page vii. — Trans. 


the obedient flock consigned its would-be saviors to the 
flames! And so on. From here the path leads straight to the 
feverish fantasies of Ivan Karamazov. 

However, Tolstoy and the heroes of Dostoyevsky were not 
the first to put their morality before humble submission to 
Providence. Over two thousand years ago there lived in the 
land of Uz a man whose sufferings and the injustice he 
clearly perceived caused him openly to challenge the Lord. 

“Perish the day when I was bom, and the night on which it 
was said ‘A man is conceived’ so began the revolt of Job. 
“Why do the wicked enjoy long life, hale in old age . . . they 
live to see their children settled, their kinsfolk and descen- 
dants flourishing; their houses are secure and safe. . . . They 
drive off the orphan’s ass and lead away the widow’s ox. . . . 
They jostle the poor out of the way. . . . The destitute hud- 
dle together . . . naked and bare they pass the night, in the 
cold they have nothing to cover them. . . . Far from the city 
they groan like dying men, and like wounded men they cry 
out, but God pays no heed to their prayer. . . 

This is the tragic fate of Job, deprived of everything he 
possessed, covered in boils and sores, sitting in the dust, cry- 
ing out for death and shaking his fists at the Lord, with his 
horrified friends trying to stop him. Surely Job’s fate can be 
seen as a prophetic analogy to the fate of Russia throughout 
her history, to the fate of her great men and of her prophets 
and of thousands of simple people, who summoned God and 
reproached Him, who threatened Him, collected “evidence” 
against Him and drew up a “bill” for Him to settle — for a 
child’s tears and for Kolyma, for the murder of the emperor 
and of his mother, for the destruction of sacred treasures, the 
corruption of the entire nation, and their own hopeless state? 

It would seem that Chaadayev 15 was right when, a 
hundred and fifty years ago, he proclaimed that our nation 
does not constitute a “uniquely necessary portion of man- 
kind,” but that it exists merely in order to “provide, at some 
time, some great object lesson for the world.” How incongru- 
ous, though significant, that these words did not so much 
15. See note 4 on page 150. — Trans. 


strike holy terror into his contemporaries and following gen- 
erations of Russians, as provoke in them a kind of morbid 
thrill . 16 And in general, pouring abuse on your own country, 
despising its history and the character of its people, excitedly 
reviling all that any other country would traditionally have 
been proud of — all this has been considered fashionable in 
our country for many decades now. However, this perhaps 
shows the greatness of our people, the kind of character they 
have: a great people does not fear abuse and they will readily 
laugh at themselves, even in the most distorted of mirrors, for 
they know even worse things about themselves — and in this 
simplicity lies the strength of a nation, the knowledge of 
something else within itself, which cannot be seen except 
through the eyes of love. “Don’t be downcast,” says one of 
Leskov’s 17 heroines, “other lands survive through being 
praised, but ours is strengthened even by abuse.” 

What happens, however, when such abuse is not the result 
of indifference and superficiality but is uttered by a genius, 
and is echoed by people whose integrity and nobility of mind 
cannot be doubted? “Love of one’s country is a beautiful 
thing,” wrote Chaadayev, “but love of truth is even more 
beautiful.” So what is this truth, what does it consist of and 
why should the Russian oppose it so heatedly to his country? 

A few months before his death, while in the most difficult 
circumstances in both his public and private life, Pushkin 
wrote to Chaadayev after reading his pamphlet: “Although 
personally I have a sincere affection for the Emperor, I am 
far from enthused by all that I see around me. As a writer, I 
am irritated, as a man with prejudices I am offended, but I 
swear on my honor that I would not change my country for 
anything on earth, nor wish for a different history than the 
history of our ancestors, the history God gave us.” 

What are we to call this — ignorance, indifference, self- 

16. “How sweet it is to hate your motherland and long for its destruc- 
tion” — these are the words of Pecherin, one of the first Russian emigrants, 
who later became a Catholic monk in the West. 

17. Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895), novelist and short-story writer, noted for 
the richness of his colloquial style and extensive knowledge of middle- and 
lower-class life. — Trans. 



defense or perhaps even self-interest? Today we would call it 
ignorance, for a man’s relations with the emperor, however 
involved, and the writer’s troubles, however weighty the 
troubles of a genius might be, and some personal “prejudi- 
ces” — what are these compared with our present knowl- 
edge, when we have been given The Gulag Archipelago and 
when, tomorrow perhaps, the Lubyanka archives will be 
thrown open so that the earth itself will shudder. Perhaps, 
perhaps, but can evil really be measured by quantity alone? 
And will the unloosed secrets of those bloodstained cellars 
really weigh more heavily than the tears of one tortured 
child? Can we find anything new to say to the Lord today 
which the man from the land of Uz, trembling in his frenzy, 
did not throw at Him, despite the piety he had shown before 
his tribulations came upon him? Or have we no longer any 
strength left, have we come to the limit of our endurance? 
“Who is this, whose ignorant words cloud my Design in 

The Lord knew and loved His servant Job, and marked 
him out by testing him. The Lord appeared to him out of the 
whirlwind, so that Job not only heard Him with his own ears 
but was also enabled to see Him. And Job repudiated what 
he had said and repented in dust and ashes. Can we still not 
see the finger of God pointing at us? Were the monsters Be- 
hemoth and Leviathan not enough of a revelation for us? And 
do we not recognize in today’s events the whirlwind, in 
which the sound of a Voice (and not only a Voice) should be 
clearly audible to us? Do we still refuse to hear with our ears 
and see with our eyes, our hearts trembling at last in our un- 
fathomable guilt for the blood that continues to gush and 
gush from the wounds of our Savior — can we still not see 
the path that is so clearly mapped out for us? 

That path is straight and stony, it shines through fog, 
smoke and blood, so ineffably leading to the land which can 
only be reached through love that it would take a truly 
clouded mind to mistake it, walk past it or stray from it 
Clearly visible under the stars, it is precisely etched across 
the centuries, leading from one great trial to the next and 



even harsher tribulation, and on the bends, like landmarks or 
signposts pointing the righf way, stand churches, saints, wan- 
dering pilgrims and prophets. This path is like a flowing 
river, sweeping some things into its stream, casting others 
aside, but never drying up, even when the going gets so hard 
that it seems to have completely disappeared in blood- 
colored mist, and the Lord seems to have forgotten and aban- 
doned this world. But the river keeps on flowing, its course 
has been set for eternity. And this miracle is no mere meta- 
phor: the Russian Orthodox Church was made manifest to the 
world a thousand years ago — she survived the Tartar in- 
vasion and Peter the Great, and still exists today. And let 
every unbeliever place his hands in the gaping wounds of 
that Church’s body. She stands immutably in the place where 
she arose, God’s witness and God’s Design — for nothing can 
distort her sacraments or corrupt her teachings. 

This is indeed an enigma and a mystery, a miracle, which 
has borne witness so many times already that “my Father has 
never yet ceased His work and I am working too’’ (John 
5:17). Although we touch upon the miraculous here, we are 
unable to understand its mystery, which for so many cen- 
turies has disturbed the rest of the world existing within an 
entirely different and more open framework. However, it is 
precisely the impossibility of finding a logical explanation for 
this reality that constitutes the Church’s mysterious secret 
and explains the Russian’s inability to tear either himself out 
of the Church or the Church out of himself. All the obvious 
advantages of that apparently open system are constantly 
being nullified and exhausted, and we seem to see those 
wonderful well-meaning impulses going up in smoke before 
our very eyes, so that man is brought back again and again to 
compromising with the age-old temptations. Whereas here 
everything remains for us as it has always been — each 
movement of the spirit, our weaknesses and our achieve- 
ments, the fields around us, our mystical ties with the whole 
of this suffering world and with everyday life, which we can 
hardly escape. It all remains and, like a grain of com, dies in 
the earth in order to bear much fruit; it remains and escapes 


into the atmosphere, together with the soul that is so hated in 
this world, and is “kept safe for eternal life” (John 12:25). 
And this is the reason why you cannot leave the Church, 
because your suffering, which in a moment of weakness 
makes you abandon her, remains within her and cannot go 
with you. You yourself become enmeshed in rusty barbed 
wire and what the outside world perhaps sees as a mere 
change of place, of climate or of material circumstances, a 
journey, here in fact becomes flight. And it is perfectly true 
that you cannot get away from that fact. This is indeed the 
Truth, that country “more beautiful” than ours, and if we lis- 
ten to the rumble of the earth muttering beneath our feet and 
in a moment of revelation glimpse the last thousand years 
flashing past, we understand that there is no fatal contra- 
diction in all this, only the dawning antinomy of love, for as 
someone quite truthfully said: “To live in this country is im- 
possible; here you can only seek salvation.” 

As we have already said, this path has its beginnings in the 
extremes of despair, when you have not yet found the Truth 
but you know you cannot live without it. You give up all else 
for her, your future, your old ties and relationships, your 
heartfelt desire for great deeds, and you ask nothing in re- 
turn — no promises, no proofs, no earthly treasures. You 
forget your own self, you cease to complain and grieve over 
your own burdens and failures; instead, you spend all your 
time cleansing yourself of the filth of subjectivity and pride, 
of pseudofreedom with all its enslaving temptations, the 
temptations of the age. Already, without your knowledge, 
while you are scrabbling on the brink of the abyss and stum- 
bling in the dark, a light, twinkling like a precious stone, has 
been growing within you. You step across the threshold of 
the Church as her humble son. 

“Day by day through the centuries, the Church has been 
gathering in its treasures. . . . The tears of the pure in heart 
have fallen on it like precious pearls. Both heaven and earth 
have made their contributions of joy in the communion with 
God, of sacred agonies of keen repentance, fragrant prayer 
and quiet yearning for heaven, eternal seeking and eternal 



finding, gazing into the unfathomable depths of eternity, and 
childlike peace of mind. . . . The centuries passed and all 
this increased and accumulated. . . .” 

You fall on your knees, and are not alone . . . you are al- 
ready in the Truth, and every spiritual effort you make, every 
sigh falling from your lips, brings to your aid the entire re- 
serve of beneficial strength stored here. 

It sounds lovely, they will say, but is quite absurd, for if 
the eighteenth century only contrived to ridicule it, the twen- 
tieth century has spread bloodstained filth all over it. Yet the 
Truth lives on, the same today as two thousand years ago, in 
a church full of kneeling worshipers, and though the priest 
may be unworthy to celebrate the Mass, angels celebrate it 
for him. The gates of Hell cannot prevail against the Church. 
You have no way back now, for if the Truth does not exist, 
your existence has no meaning. So you go on repeating and 
whispering the words your countryman left for you and paid 
for with his life in one of the unknown camps of the north. 
You are no longer concerned with your adversaries — you 
have parted company with them forever: “Steer clear of fool- 
ish speculations, genealogies, quarrels and controversies 
over the law; they are pointless and unprofitable” (Titus 3:9). 

You are not alone, because beside you, cursed by men but 
not forgotten by God, Who has manifested His Will through 
it, stands your whole country, which throughout the ages has 
always stored all its spiritual treasures — its culture, its great 
achievements and its holy relics — here in the Church. You 
are needed by your nation — not by those who live only in 
fear of her, who know nothing of her past and care nothing 
for her future, for whom the present consists only of them- 
selves. You are needed by the Church, and thus by its every 
member, for “all of us, united with Christ, form one body” 
(Rom. 12:5). You are needed by your country — by Russia. 

Meanwhile, outside the Church walls a kind of unceasing 
witches’ Sabbath seems to be going on: aging executioners 
are pensioned off and replaced by hypocrites who are 
ready — in the right circumstances and at the first sign — to 
take up their predecessors’ old habits. The tide of accusa- 



tions, yielding to force, subsides, only to rise again at the first 
smell of weakness. Purity and simplicity yield to cynicism 
and calculation, but later return armed with new tactical 
weapons. Heroism appears in so many disguises — from the 
most noble to the most openly selfish — that its true nature 
can scarcely be distinguished: wounded pride, conceit, hys- 
teria, defiance that is frightened of its own shadow, the desire 
to settle accounts, inflamed ambition, undisguised oppor- 
tunism, the fear of being passed by, left out or behind, curios- 
ity, pillage, speculation — what a variety of apparel, 
adornments and roles, what tender solicitude it displays for 
the welfare of the despised people and their culture 1 What 
thunderbolts are loosed against the indifference and cow- 
ardly habits concealed beneath the traditional, centuries- 
old, tried and tested slave armor that openly calls itself the 
salvation of the individual soul, or else masquerades in the 
long-since-compromised religious robes of collaborationism 
or pitiful otherworldly loyalties. The blustering self goes on 
the rampage; intoxicated with its own freedom, it has no 
need of the Sole Way or of God’s Law. The Absolute yields 
place to relativity, in which even conscience sinks; individ- 
uality disappears and man no longer makes a free choice, but 
has it made for him: profit, safety, the opinion of others, good 
relations with someone, praise or blame — like fairground 
demons they mechanically seize the next victim in line and 
the machinery goes into action: promises, threats, sops to 
hidden passions or ambitious designs. As if we had abso- 
lutely no Law at all, as if the Way had not been shown to us 
and no Commandments given us, obedience to which 
requires true courage and heroic zeal of man, qualities which 
do not and cannot exist in the brassy fairground obsessed by 
its own passions. 

The praying Church floats in candlelight, the visages of the 
saints painted on the dark icons in the gilded frames come to 
life and intone, together with the rest of the Church, the ring- 
ing proclamation from the choir of the Beatitudes, announc- 
ing their recognition of the Truth in this world and of eternal 



life in the next: the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the meek, 
those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, 
the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted 
for the sake of righteousness, the slandered and abused, 
those who rejoice because they suffer for the sake of Christ. 
They have already renounced their own selves and so have 
found inner courage and strength — we need so many more 
of them! In thinking of them, the true heirs and participants 
in the Heavenly Kingdom, we already see the “azure of eter- 
nity” which Father P. Florensky wrote about. 

Is there anything in the world nobler or more difficult than 
this ineffable toil? 

You walk out into the church porch, with the snow trick- 
ling slowly down from a gray sky, and then into the town that 
has expelled you from it, you go out to meet the people you 
have taken your leave of. You know that, as in the “last days” 
in the Apostle’s words, “hard times” are approaching (but 
when have times ever been easy in Russia?). You go out into 
the town, where you still live; you walk through the crowd, 
through the whirling fairground, and how can you help but 
see it, hear it and be drawn into it? But even here, “do not be 
afraid of the sufferings to come,” for God knows “your 
works” and “where you live; it is the place where Satan has 
his throne; and yet you are holding fast to my cause and do 
not deny your faith in me” ( Rev. 2:10-13). 

You will never be alone from now on, no matter what may 
happen to you. What does the fairground of this world and 
your whole former life mean to you, when you know that ev- 
erything has been arranged in accordance with God’s Word? 
Even the Apostle Paul had insufficient time to tell of all 
those who “were stoned, were sawed in two, were put to the 
sword, went about dressed in skins of sheep and goats, in 
poverty, distress and misery. They were too good for a world 
like ours. They were refugees in deserts and on hills, hiding 
in caves and holes in the ground. These also, one and all, are 
commemorated for their faith; and yet they did not enter 
upon the promised inheritance because, with us in mind, 



God had made a better plan, that only in company with us 
should they reach their perfection” (Heb. 11:37-40). 

They did not enter upon the promised inheritance be- 
cause, with us in mind, God made a better plan. . . .And the 
town weeps, curses and raves. You have just emerged from 
the church, having stood through the Liturgy, prayed for all 
those whose good works you have remembered, and asked 
the Savior to forgive their sins and evil actions. You plow 
your own furrow, carry your cross, and no one can know the 
end of his journey. The deeds of every man will be revealed 
in the end, and then it will be too late to think again, for 
“what appears to some men as light, to others will be a burn- 
ing fire, depending upon what material and qualities it finds 
in each” (the Blessed Gregory the Theologian). The Truth 
has been set down for eternity, and nothing can prevent its 
being loudly proclaimed on the appointed day. It exists even 
now and one day it will emerge into God’s light, a terrible 
warning of the inescapability of judgment, both earthly and 

What then can you do, I ask once more, for if the divine 
judgment (which nothing can escape) is coming and if the 
Day, of which we can know nothing (even though the rosy 
glow of the domes of our churches is getting brighter and 
brighter), is nigh, then surely it is only through our own 
courage and endeavor that the earthly judgment can be 
made? Can we afford to put it off, shifting the responsibility 
onto other shoulders, knowing in the depths of our trembling 
souls that this Day must come (and what if it doesn’t?). This 
is one of our most tragic problems. I cannot take it upon 
myself to resolve it, but I know for sure that it cannot be 
resolved by hatred, without an understanding love of the 
country in which we live, nor by separating our country and 
the Truth, with which it is inextricably linked (despite our 
terrible history and our fear-ridden present) by the very inex- 
orability of its destiny. In the final analysis, your personal 
choice and path are nothing more nor less than your choice 
and path. But you are not alone — never forget that! Nor 
should you forget that “the Truth itself,” as the Blessed Ma- 



kary the Great has said, “impels man to seek the Truth/’ And 
please believe that “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” 
as Pascal put it, “and not the God of the philosophers and 
learned men” will come to you one day, will take you by the 
hand and guide you, if you truly wish it. 


The Schism Between the Church 

and the World 


In every Mass we profess our faith in the one, holy, Catholic 
and apostolic Church. We believe in its holiness, for we see 
in it the image of Christ's presence. And here on earth we al- 
ready touch the fullness of the life to come. But we are not 
alone. Among unbelievers too there are many who perceive 
in the word “Church" the reality of a certain unknown and 
higher life. A desire to approach this reality and somehow to 
come into contact with it draws them to the churches on 
Easter Eve. They wait patiently for midnight, when they will 
hear the distant singing from inside the church, when the 
worshipers will come out in procession, and the cry “Christ 
is risen I" will resound over the crowd. They wait for the ac- 
complishment of the shining mystery which — who 
knows? — might draw them as well into this profound reality 
called the Church, admit them to it, unfold its secret and 
unite it with their own spiritual life. And those who take part 
in the mystery itself — those in communion with the glory of 
Christ — feel themselves victors. “Let God arise and may his 
enemies be dispersed," the believers sing with fervor. And 
in these paschal cries the Church seems to rise to its full 
height. The evil of the world, its darkness and mendacity, its 
sinfulness and violence, are vanquished by the Resurrection. 



And the waves of universal renewal and joy emanating from 
the celebrants seem to take a hold on the unbelievers as well. 
The victory seems to become real and actual, not somewhere 
beyond the frontiers of time and space, but here, today, now. 

But the everyday, earthly, human reality of the Church 
presents an agonizing contrast. And this contrast also starts 
with the building itself. In our country a church is a “place 
for the performance of the rite of a religious community.” 
This community is registered by the organs of the state. And 
state functionaries are appointed to supervise its life. This 
supervision consists in making the “liturgical department” as 
spiritually isolated as possible, harmless and even comic, 
from the point of view of the ideology of the state. And all the 
participants in the “rite/’ the hierarchs, the priests depen- 
dent on them, and laymen — in other words all the other ele- 
ments that constitute the Church — meekly accept this 
situation and seem fully reconciled to their dependence. 

Let us not hasten to accuse the Church. The fact that it has 
been forced to go “whither it will not” might still not have 
done great spiritual harm. The problem lies in how we de- 
fine our attitude to this bondage, how we manage to accom- 
modate both it and the triumphant paschal strength and joy. 
Currently some Christians bear this enforced bondage like a 
heavy obligation “for the sake of the preservation of the 
Church,” while others have got used to it, acquired a taste for 
it, and have perhaps even come to like the contrast. 

But despite this manifest and indubitable submissiveness 
of the Church to the state, even people who are far from 
being Christians are expecting some general renewal in it. 
They want to see in the Russian Church an effective force 
that is capable of opposing mendacious ideological bureau- 
cratism with genuine spiritual values, of affirming moral prin- 
ciples and slaking the people’s thirst with the “water of life.” 

People who know ecclesiastical life well are usually less 
optimistic. Having experienced within themselves all the ter- 
rible ailments and dilemmas of contemporary ecclesiastical 
reality, they are inclined to think that the Church will only 
be able to have an impact on society when society itself 



grows sufficiently free and democratic to liberate the Church 
from the political fetters imposed by the state. 

For the time being I shall not discuss which of these points 
of view corresponds more faithfully to reality. Those who see 
in Christianity the affirmation of an absolute truth about man 
and human society are undoubtedly right. And it is only on 
the basis of this higher truth that it is possible to warrant the 
exceptional value of man, the value of his life and what he 
creates. Christianity alone holds the key to the deepest 
meaning of social life, culture and husbandry. The history of 
the Christian nations has evolved in the search for this mean- 
ing, notwithstanding all their frustrations and failures. Such 
has been Russia’s path as well, after adopting the Orthodox 
faith from Byzantium in the tenth century and through Chris- 
tianity becoming a part of European culture. Learning, art, 
law, and the concept of the state were all given to us by 
Christianity. And throughout the years of tribal feuds, foreign 
invasions, domestic upheavals and crises it was the Russian 
Church that always preserved and maintained the living cul- 
tural tradition and was the foundation of the nation’s and the 
state’s integrity. In the feats of its saints and pious men the 
Russian people has never ceased to behold the unfading light 
of a higher moral truth, which became the object of a quest 
that permeates the whole of great Russian literature. And 
looking back we realize that Christian ideas and ideals lay 
beneath even those aspects of life and culture which, it 
would seem, were not related to them on the surface. We 
need not mention the heritage which has become an inalien- 
able part of the spiritual life of all mankind: the cathedrals 
and icons, Sergius of Radonezh and Andrei Rublev, 1 the 
archpriest Awakum 2 3 and Serafim Sarovsky, 8 Gogol and Dos- 
toyevsky, Tolstoy and Solovyov, 4 the pleiade of twentieth- 

1. See note 6 on page 156. — Trans. 

2. Archpriest Awakum (1620-1681), leader of the “Old Believers,” a group 
of schismatics who refused to accept the ecclesiastical reforms of Patriarch 
Nikon. His Life is a remarkable autobiographical account of his wanderings 
in exile in Siberia. — Trans. 

3. See note 9 on page 157.— Trans. 

4. Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900), philosopher, mystic and poet who was 



century thinkers and, finally, those recent innumerable mar- 
tyrs whose hagiographies have not yet been written and who 
are remembered by only a few surviving eyewitnesses. 

All this is so. And many who are troubled by the fete of the 
Russian Church and genuinely participate in contemporary 
Church life do not, of course, deny it. Without belittling the 
highest achievements of Christian culture, without doubting 
the transforming power of the “good news” of Christianity, 
they remind us of something else as well — of the profound 
and agonizing crisis which is gnawing away at the Russian 
Church from within. 

After the dozens of years when martyrdom was passed over 
in silence, when hypocrisy and servility reigned, it was two 
valiant priests, Nikolai Eshilman and Gleb Yakunin, who first 
referred publicly to this crisis. In their “Open Letter” to Pa- 
triarch Alexius, sent in November 1965, they protested not 
only against the illegal actions of the leaders and officials of 
the Council for Religious Affairs — actions which grossly vio- 
lated their own legislation — but also against the craven, 
hypocritical position adopted by the higher ecclesiastical ad- 
ministration. They showed convincingly how a significant 
part of the governing episcopate, with voluntary silence or 
cunning connivance, had assisted the atheists to close 
churches, monasteries and religious schools, to liquidate re- 
ligious communities, to establish the illegal practice of regis- 
tering christenings, and had yielded to them control over the 
appointment and transfer of priests. 

That was roughly the time of the statements by Archbishop 
Ermogen, imprisoned in a monastery for his protests, Boris 
Talantov, who died in prison, the historian and publicist Ana- 
toly Krasnov-Levitin, who was recently released from a labor 
camp, and many others. 

Their voices sounded again in the Lenten letter from Alex- 
ander Solzhenitsyn to Patriarch Pimen. 

The patriarch did not reply to Solzhenitsyn, but his si- 

one of the founders of the Symbolist movement in Russia. His ideas have 
recently made a comeback with many dissidents in die Soviet Union. 



lence, and the fact that he forbade the two priests to officiate 
in church any more, provide eloquent proof of the justice of 
these reproaches. ^ n 

Both Solzhenitsyn and the authors of the “Open Letter to 
Patriarch Alexius (this is where they part company from the 
all-understanding and passive “ecclesiastical realists”), not 
only bear witness to the truth, but also call for the vicious 
circle to be broken — for people to overcome the fetters of 
lies, fear, lack of faith, and connivance through personal sac- 
rifice. It was a remarkable, deeply moral and indispensable 
summons. But why did these calls not find any response 
among the Christians of the Church? What stops us, evi- 
dently, is not just the sacrifice (Christianity is sacrificial 
through and through, the “idea” of sacrifice is accepted by 
all), but something else, something profounder that finnly, 
though perhaps not very obviously, holds us back. What is it? 

Father Sergei Zheludkov, in his open letter to Solzheni- 
tsyn, endeavored to indicate that the main reason we were 
deprived of the possibility of initiative and choice was the to- 
talitarian system of our state (“a strictly uniformly organized 
System, administered from a unified Center”), in which the 
legal Church could not be an island of freedom. 

“What remains for us to do in such a situation? he wrote. 
“Should we say ‘All or nothing?’ Should we try to go un- 
derground, which in the present System is unthinkable? Or 
should we somehow go along with the System and use, as 
long as we can, those possibilities which are open to us? The 
Russian hierarchy took the second choice, and the result is 
the evil that is happening today. But there was no other 
choice .” 

Father Zheludkov examines the crisis of our ecclesiastical 
life in the traditional framework of the opposition of Church 
and state. But to what extent can such an approach to the 
problem give an exhaustive answer? 

I will not argue as to whether or not the possibility of 
another choice existed in the past. But why is it that today, as 
in the past, the possibilities of choice are limited to two alter- 
natives: an underground Church or joining the system? Why 



exclude so completely what would seem to be a fully lawful 
and natural path — a legal and open demand for the rights 
which are indispensable for the normal existence of the 
Church? It is evident that this question, which is implied un- 
equivocally in Solzhenitsyn’s letter and which Father Zhe- 
ludkov refrained from discussing, presupposes some clear 
and definite answer. And we all know what it is: neither the 
patriarch, nor the synod, nor the Congregation of Bishops has 
any intention whatever of trying to obtain from the govern- 
ment any rights for the Church. Most likely they will not 
even defend them, but will surrender them wordlessly, with 
all the rights they already have, at the first demand of some 
bureaucrat. That at least is what was happening until just 
recently. And it is clear that we are dealing not simply with 
“administration from a unified Center,” but with something 
else, which we are unwilling to give serious thought to and 
which we do not consider needs discussion. 

But let us be candid: our spiritual life is not totally subordi- 
nated to orders from the “Center,” and in any case not di- 
rectly. It was not, after all, orders from above but conformist 
inertia that led the ecclesiastical intelligentsia to react to the 
letters of the two Muscovite priests and of Solzhenitsyn as to 
a new sort of “spiritual pride” and “temptation of the devil.” 
Many ecclesiastical Christians seriously and repeatedly re- 
proached them for not believing in the power of prayer, for 
failing to understand the essence of the Christian life and in- 
terfering in other people’s business, for proudly and ar- 
rogantly breaking the peace of the Church instead of meekly 
knowing their place “like everyone else.” These words were 
uttered with total sincerity, with a feeling of profound grief 
and even of compassion for the “troublemakers.” But surely 
there is something enigmatic about this sincere grief? 

The position of the Church in a totalitarian world is indeed 
tragic, but this tragedy inclines us to forget that our present 
position is inseparably bound up with the tragedies of the 
past — which now seem to us to have been almost idyllic. 
And in attempting to comprehend the profound sources of 
the current tragedy of ecclesiastical Christianity, shall we not 

1 77 


be forced to recognize that the fateful malaise arose long 
before our “strictly uniformly administered social System”? 
If we trace the mainstream of our history back up toward its 
source, will we not find, under the glitter of gilded pomp, all 
those so familiar features? And preserving our academic im- 
partiality, despite the seductiveness of past eras with their 
majestic attempts at theocratic kingdoms and church-state 
“symphonies,” surely we shall be obliged to acknowledge 
that in Byzantium and Russia ideas about the Kingdom of 
God and the kingdom of Caesar too often merged and be- 
came interchangeable. The subjection of the Church by the 
state is an old eastern tradition. The Emperors Constantine, 
Constantius, Theodosius and Justinian (not to mention the 
later period) openly interfered with the internal life of the 
Church, suppressing, dictating and avenging. We venerate 
the holiness of .the Nicene Creed, but our Christian con- 
science will never be reconciled to the conclusion of the 
Council of Nicaea, when the emperor exiled all the dis- 
senters. That was not an isolated case — practically the 
whole historical path of Orthodoxy is peppered with them. 
For the state, as history has shown from the Edict of Milan to 
the present, it has always been desirable to have a “tame 
Orthodoxy” which would serve the ends of autocratic power. 

Of course the “union” of the Church and the state under 
Constantine, and the Church-state “symphony,” whose ideo- 
logist and legislator was Justinian, differ sharply from the 
contemporary state of affairs. The Byzantine state considered 
itself a Christian state and the emperors, when they subordi- 
nated the Church to their needs, nevertheless regarded 
themselves as the instruments of God’s will. The organism of 
the Church did not so much suffer from the external force of 
the state as secretly go along with it, from inside, in a process 
of identifying the Church with the empire, of erasing the 
borders between Church and state, of affirming their close 
(too close!) unity. It was in this false perspective of an osten- 
sibly self-evident “symphony” that the historical fate of the 
Russian Orthodox Church developed until the 1917 revolu- 
tion. And when tsarism fell, the Church suddenly found itself 



face to face with a hostile, atheistic state which applied 
rather different methods from those of the Christian Em- 

However, we are not saying this in order to attribute all the 
ills of the Church solely to the negative influence of the state 
on the Church. This has become the usual subterfuge and 
resort to which people have recourse in order to avoid having 
to resolve all the agonizing problems of contemporary Chris- 
tianity. We are talking about something else — about our ec- 
clesiastical consciousness as such, the essence of our 
religious attitude to the life of the world and of our attitude to 
the System. There is nothing surprising in the fact tha* - an 
atheistic state tries to reduce the life of the Church to the rite 
alone, or, in the words of believers, to turn it into a “fulfiller 
of needs.” From the point of view of the ideology ruling in 
our country, religion is the “opium of the people” and as 
such, as a result of the destruction of its “social roots” and 
the building of a new society, must sooner or later become 
superfluous and die off. But insofar as vestiges of religion 
continue to exist, believers are afforded the possibility of 
“performing the rite,” a possibility guaranteed by the Consti- 
tution . 5 At the same time it is intended that, under the influ- 
ence of new forms of social life and the propaganda of a 
materialistic philosophy, the “vestiges of religion” among 
our population will finally vanish. One must admit that such 
a point of view is certainly clear and logical. What is surpris- 
ing, however, is that this particular ideological position 
should begin to sap our own ecclesiastical consciousness. It 
goes without saying that we do not profess the necessity for 
us ourselves to die off, but more often than not we do regard 
the present state of affairs as something natural and normal. 

Here we enter a world of depressing paradoxes. The first of 
them says that the external limitations on the life of the 
Church correspond to the secret desires of many ecclesias- 
tics. These desires stem from the assumption that the Mass in 

5. Nevertheless, this possibility is strictly limited by the closure of 
churches, by the refusal to open new ones and the imposition of constraints 
on seminaries and monasteries. 



itself is Christianity, and that the Christian needs nothing be- 
sides. All the rest merely distracts and disperses. “It is not 
our business to interfere where we are not asked. Not all the 
churches have been closed, thank God, the Mass is cele- 
brated according to the book, lots of people attend on feast 
days, what else do we need?” And many people coming to 
Christianity today try to adopt this ideology as the genuine 
position of the Church, and, having adopted it, make a fetish 
of it and a compulsory standard. 

But this is exactly what the state has been dinning into the 
Church for half a century: “You say you are not of this world, 
well then, there is nothing for you to do in this world. That is 
why I forbid you to ‘set up benefit societies, cooperatives of 
industrial societies; to offer material aid to your members; to 
organize children’s and young persons’ groups for prayer and 
other purposes, or general biblical, literary or handicraft 
groups for the purpose of work or religious instruction and 
the like, or to organize groups, circles or sections; to arrange 
excursions and kindergartens, open libraries and reading 
rooms, organize sanatoria or medical aid’ ” (“Concerning re- 
ligious societies,” Resolution of the Central Committee, 8 
April 1929, para. 17). 

And as if in response to these prohibitions there arises 
from the very depths of the Church’s consciousness, latently 
and sometimes unconsciously, a certain strange under- 
standing of Christianity, a certain weird and wonderful eccle- 
siology. “You are right to prohibit these things. We only 
multiply our sins by occupying ourselves with good works. 
We have not yet learned how to pray — how could we get in- 
volved in kindergartens. The Church is for prayer, and not 
for worldly cares.” 

In an ecclesiology such as this there is of course no room 
for the problems of the Christianization of Russia. Moreover, 
there comes into being a peculiar kind of Christianity which 
many people try to identify with the essence of Orthodoxy , or 
to vindicate by reference to the exceptional nature of our 
socio-ideological system. We have already grown accustomed 
to apologetics of that sort. But are they needed today? And if 



so, by whom? The crisis in our ecclesiastical life has gone too 
far, but we are not alone in experiencing it. The Russian 
Church is displaying with particular vividness just a few of 
the symptoms of that universal malady which has today af- 
fected Christianity, with varying degrees of severity, all over 
the world. Therefore many of our problems need to be exam- 
ined in a wider perspective, namely, that of the general crisis 
of the consciousness of the Church in the secular world. 

There exists not only an opposition between the Church 
and the state, the Church and a totalitarian system, but also a 
more fundamental opposition, that between the Church and 
the world. It is precisely here that we find the origins of the 
radical division of Christian life into two independent 
spheres, the ecclesiastical and the sociohistorical. This divi- 
sion has never been confirmed by dogma, and the Church 
has more than once pronounced against the theoretical jus- 
tification of this kind of dualism. All the same, the Christian 
world has lived in this duality not so much in terms of its 
dogma as psychologically. Even before the division became 
overt, this schism between the two spheres of life had an im- 
pact on the hearts and minds of Christians. It turned out to be 
too hard to accept all the complexities and antinomies of the 
Gospel. And that greatest of all temptations began to rear its 
head — that of “simplifying” Christianity, of reducing it from 
being a teaching about the new life to a mere caring for the 
salvation of one’s own soul. As a result of this, the earthly 
aspect of life and the whole structure of social relations 
turned out to be empty and immune to the influence of the 

But the genuine hope of religion, the “good news” of 
Christianity about the Kingdom of God, which constitutes the 
basic content of the Gospel, is not limited to the world 
beyond the grave. The Kingdom of God which Christ taught 
us about “is not of this world” and will be realized in full 
only beyond the bounds of earthly history. But through 
Christ it entered this world and became its leaven. And it did 
not just “draw near,” it “resides within us.” And the begin- 



ning of this new all-embracing life is the Body of Christ, the 
Church. Through it God summons mankind and the world to 
perfection, to the fullness of absolute being. If the creative 
transformation of the world by man is seen as the realization 
of the Kingdom of God with Christ and in Christ, then the 
world is not only pardoned and justified, but is also being 
realized in the highest of its possible forms. 

Entry into the Kingdom of God, however, and its actual re- 
alization are impossible without renunciation and the strug- 
gle with evil. Evil and sin are triumphant in this world; “the 
world resides in evil,” and “the people have preferred dark- 
ness to light.” And it is not only from the Gospel, but from all 
human history and from our own experience that we know of 
the “power of darkness” in the world and in ourselves. Evil 
hinders us from going toward the light, drags us away from it 
with thousands of enticements, temptations and illusions. 
That is precisely why the Gospel teaches us not to love this 
world or that which is in it. 

These two aspects of the Christian attitude to the world, 
active participation in its transformation and renunciation of 
its temptations, turned out to be extremely difficult to recon- 
cile. Heavenward aspirations often went hand in hand with 
execration of the earth. Too often the ideal of salvation was 
built on a foundation of inflexible renunciation of this world. 
Thus salvation itself was understood as an escape from the 
material world into a world of pure spirituality. This gave 
rise to contempt for the flesh, the belittling of man’s creative 
nature and, as a necessary consequence, a special religious 
individualism. For some people these tendencies have to this 
day remained the sole signs of a Christian life. 

But the history of Christianity has another side which can 
with justice be called its “spiritual success,” although it was 
often accompanied by “historical failure.” I refer to the expe- 
rience of Orthodoxy, its spiritual breakthrough to the eternal 
Divine Light, the contemplation of that Light and the union 
with it of the whole human being. This experience is re- 
vealed to us not only in the “mental” prayer of the ascetics, 
not only in theological speculation and mystical illumination, 



but in the very structure of the liturgical mystery, which 
brings us to the mystery of mysteries, the Eucharist. 

This is the peak of tension: God and man meet in the most 
intimate and unsunderable way. And in the incomparable joy 
of man’s union with the absolute Reality, the God-man Jesus 
Christ, everything is filled with unutterable light and exulta- 
tion. And one involuntarily feels an urge to remain stock-still; 
motionless, so as to retain in oneself this joyous light. This is 
the origin of the experience and excitement of eastern mo- 
nastic asceticism, whose aim is “to commune with the Divine 
Light.” In his profound silence and prayer the ascetic opens 
himself to the action of divine grace which, as St. Symeon the 
New Theologian writes, “appears with all quietness and joy, 
and this light is the harbinger of the eternal Light, the radi- 
ance on the face of eternal bliss. . . . The mind sinks into it, 
becomes suffused with brightness, turns into light and unites 
indivisibly with the very Source of Light. . . . In this state of 
illumination the ascetic flickers like a flame, and he is lit in- 
ternally by the Holy Ghost, and looking outward from his 
own life he divines the mystery of his deification. . . 

How similar that is to die ecstasy which, according to the 
Gospel, was experienced by Christ’s disciples on Mount 

But when the Divine Light vanished, Christ together with 
his disciples came down into the world. He came to earth not 
only for the transfiguration on Tabor. Before Him still lay the 
Sermon on the Mount, the cure of the sick, the entry into 
Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, 
Golgotha and, together with death, victory over its perma- 
nence: the Resurrection. 

It is impossible not to see in this the image of the historical 
destinies of the Church. And the Apocalypse confirms it: the 
Christian Church is faced with struggle; the temptation of 
many and their desertion; constancy and labor; and the sum 
of its earthly history will be victory for Him Who conquered 
the world, and the eternal Light of Divine Glory. We have 
heard of this many times, but there is always the temptation 
to stop, to “wait until history ends,” to put up a tent here and 



now and contemplate — if not in the desert, or on Mount 
Athos, then in church, during the Mass. In the contemplation 
of the Light it is easy to forget the world and its eternal 
movement. Hence that paradox, when a great spiritual ac- 
complishment, the revelation to man of his high and holy 
task, involves a major historical failure. But is it only a histor- 
ical failure? Christian kingdoms crumble and perish, local 
churches sicken and die under the yoke of dictators, the 
world is convulsed by bloody revolutions and inhuman re- 
gimes, and Christians seem to hear nothing of this. 

We have a certain fatal insensitivity that is indestructible 
and amounts to almost a contempt for history. We often talk 
of the “radiant universality” of Orthodoxy, but we stare with 
bewilderment at those who ask us to embody its light in ter- 
restrial historical reality. Hence the tradition in which Ortho- 
dox man found it easier and more preferable to discover 
himself in the world of nature than to strive for the construc- 
tion of the City of God on earth. He made a distinction, 
which was not only religious but psychological, between na- 
ture and “this world,” the cosmos and history. Contemplating 
the divine energies which permeate the created world, he 
lived in tune with the one and indivisible all-embracing cos- 
mic mystery, in which there was no room for transformations 
and personal initiative. Everything there is sacred, unshak- 
able and incontrovertible till the end of time. Hence the sta- 
bility of the mystique of the kingdom and the sacralization of 
everyday life, clothed more often than not in the heavy robes 
of ritualized symbolism. The kingdom and everyday life are 
not historical categories, but religio-cosmic ones, and in 
Orthodoxy they have to this day remained external to the 
idea of the creative personality, its spiritual impulses and 
moral imperatives. 

All this does not mean of course that in the Christian East 
the personality is dissolved in a cosmic-ancestral principle or 
is totally absent. On the contrary, both in Byzantium and in 
Russia an intense ascetic struggle took place for the forma- 
tion of the Christian personality. The best evidence for this 
are the numerous “Paterikons” and “Lives of the Saints.” But 



those were the peaks, surrounded on all sides by steep 
slopes. The challenging import of these feats of asceticism is 
usually objectivized further down, their explosive energy is 
dispersed and converted into an impersonal ideology of hum- 
drum asceticism, and becomes a double external measure for 
the Christian life. The Christian saints who renounced the 
world and history were in fact laying down new paths for the 
life of the world and in so doing were actually making his- 
tory. Their feat of self-renunciation and their victories over 
the power of this world were a daring challenge to the natu- 
ral order of nature, a creative vanquishment of human limita- 
tions and an active struggle with evil. But all this has nothing 
to do with that pseudoascetic indifference to history and con- 
tempt for the world which form the basis for the ascetic 
ideology which has been adapted to the human sphere. 
In Russia this ideology has long since become the ruling 
one. Particularly popular have been the ideas of obedience 
and humble submission to the external authorities. They 
opened the door to a conservative conformism not only in 
personal ethics, but also in the life of the Church itself. The 
Church and the Eucharist have lost their meaning of an in- 
tegrated and creative communal life; from being a “common 
cause” they have become a means of individual salvation. 
The Christian’s own religiousness has become his chief 
preoccupation. And in this context the concept of the Chris- 
tian’s responsibility for the fete of the world has irrevocably 
lost all meaning. 

It seems at times that we Christians deliberately do not 
wish to understand our historical failure or to admit our his- 
torical sins. We shift the blame onto anyone we can find — 
the state, atheism, secularization — but ourselves always re- 
main only innocent victims. Our consciousness is still in 
thrall to old patterns and principles, we seem powerless to 
burst the bonds of these false traditions. We have still not 
thrown off the medieval yoke, in which relations between 
the Church and the world were conceived in terms of sover- 
eignty and submission. Christianity, however, is not about 
power and coercive authoritarianism, but spiritual initiative 



and daring. Is not the failure of attempts to establish theocra- 
cies due to the fact that they were based on contempt for and 
renunciation of that world which they simultaneously wanted 
to subjugate and harness? It was there that the ideology and 
practice of theocratic sovereignty and spiritual despotism 
originated, the desire to fix life in lasting forms. The at- 
tributes of the Church — eternity and holiness — were trans- 
ferred to the theocratic kingdom. This idea of the forcible 
salvation of the world also meant that the world, including 
man and culture, had no independent value, that they could 
be approached in a purely utilitarian way, as a means for the 
realization of the Church’s aims. 

The world, of course, has abandoned the Church, since the 
traditional groove reserved for creativity turned out to be too 
restricted for man. The energy which had accumulated over 
the centuries finally burst through the dam of established 
authorities and forms. Today it is not the Church but the 
world which is creating a new civilization, and it is solving 
the problems with which it is faced on the basis of its own 
understanding of existence. The area in which the Church 
can directly influence the world has been sharply reduced. 
Among the turbulent forces creating culture and transforming 
society, and sometimes threatening the very stones of the 
Church itself, the Christian faith continues to bear witness to 
its existence in the mystery of the Mass and in feats of per- 
sonal sanctity and prayer. But the creative spirit which trans- 
forms life and the world appears to have abandoned it. 
Dragging along behind the world, the Church has been left 
to adopt principles which at first were alien to it, but which 
by now have become firmly established in spite of it. Even 
such Western “innovations” as social Christianity, Christian 
economics and sociology, new church architecture and paint- 
ing, new rhythms and images in the music and poetry of the 
liturgy — all this is, as it were, some sort of compulsory trib- 
ute to the times, an obligatory new form having no relevance 
to the heart of the matter. Hence the inner contradiction of 
modem Church life, with its precarious wobbling between 



the extremes of senile protectionism, modernism, and feeble 
imitation. However, neither the curses nor the blessings with 
which people try to blur the sharp dividing line between the 
Church and the headlong momentum of the world are able to 
extinguish a feeling of tragic schism. 

The sense of tragedy experienced today by every sensitive 
Christian consciousness is not merely the tragedy of the 
Church and Christianity in a secular world, but the tragedy of 
the world itself. It is impossible for man to “settle” in the 
world completely without God. Although proud of its suc- 
cesses and attainments, the world sees every day more 
clearly the provisional and insufficient nature of its civiliza- 
tion. On the verge of having its foundations shaken to the 
core, it thirsts as never before for the true light. 

But the most surprising fact in modem spiritual life must 
be considered our indifference toward this thirst, our own too 
easy consent to the division existing between the Church and 
the world. We refuse to recognize that this external division 
is supported not only by the “willfulness of the world,” but 
also by our own stagnant Christianity. Is not our own double 
life an expression of our dual consciousness? Is it not we our- 
selves who have helped to reduce the meaning of the life of 
the Church to an “intimate little comer” of piety locked away 
with seven locks from the life of the world, and hostile to it? 
Our religious fervor is opposed not to the sinfulness of the 
world, but to the world itself its life, its history, its quests 
and questionings. We have thoroughly assimilated and like to 
repeat the proposition that Christ is the “judgment of this 
world,” this world which has not recognized and accepted 
Him, that He is the salvation and the life for all those who 
recognize and accept and perform the will of the Father re- 
vealing itself in Christ. But for some reason we forget that the 
Father enjoined us above all not to judge, but to save the 
world. Salvation is the eternal meaning of the Incarnation of 
the Word, Christ’s death on the Cross, His Resurrection and 
the entrance of the Holy Ghost into the apostles. We forget it 
because our personal spiritual makeup has become more 



valuable to us than its objective: the transformation of the 
world and of life for the glory of the approaching fullness of 
the Kingdom of God. 

“We have got used to “owning” our Christianity and keep- 
ing it to ourselves, to not sharing it, as if it were an accidental 
inheritance. The external division thus becomes fixed in our 
Christian consciousness. Both in life and in the conscious- 
ness of the self there are, as it were, two persons: one is the 
keeper of a spiritual heritage, the other participates in the af- 
fairs of the world, which, as a rule, have no relevance to that 
heritage. For a long time it was thought that the Church was 
victorious in the world. But when that illusion crumbled, the 
vanquished Christians continued to harbor feelings of resent- 
ment and of a certain humble superiority, and these feelings 
imperceptibly commingled with the heritage they were pre- 
serving. Sometimes it seems that proud Orthodoxy and an 
unshakable feeling of righteousness have become entangled 
with this feeling of long-standing, unextinguished and still- 
persisting umbrage: “Since the world once disobeyed the 
Church, it can go to the devil now, along with its civilization 
and culture. . . . We’ll see then. . . .” There is a peculiar, 
vengeful delight about the way in which not only the smaller 
sects but also Christians of the Church discuss the end of the 
world. In this sense Berdyayev e was undoubtedly correct in 
writing that the traditional concept of hell and its eternal tor- 
tures is an ontologization of Christian vengefulness. But hell 
is not a transcendent absolute, it is already present here, in 
time, in the postlapsarian world which is “rotting” and suf- 
fering for its sinfulness. The world might rather take offense 
at the Church for keeping the secret of salvation to itself and 
being either unable or unwilling to speak about it in accessi- 
ble language. 

Our civilization is dual in its foundation and history. And 
now, in spite of a secularization that aspires to universal do- 
minion, Christian principles continue to influence its life. 
The energies of Christian culture, not directly through the 
6. See note on page 55 . — Trans. 



Church perhaps, but obliquely and through mysterious chan- 
nels, continue to penetrate through to our world. They reveal 
themselves to us in the experience of making a moral choice, 
in the quest for genuine humanity, in the aspiration for 
higher things, in the impossibility of making do with compro- 
mises. And here we discover that our culture itself reacts 
sharply and painfully to human efforts at self-deification and 
self-sufficiency. In the Renaissance this reaction became 
the dominant theme in the later works of Botticelli, 
Michelangelo and Titian. And it continued in the “religious 
renunciation” by the romantics of the ideals of the Enlight- 
enment, in the struggle of the twentieth-century Christian 
renaissance with positivism and atheism. And Russian litera- 
ture — through Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov and 
Solzhenitsyn — has unfailingly borne witness to the pro- 
found malady of our secular culture, to the tragic absurdity of 
an existence without God, to man’s indestructible urge to 
find the true light. Without breaking through to absolute and 
unconditional values, culture inevitably ends by denying it- 
self in what might be termed pseudo- or anticulture, in some- 
thing which has the external appurtenances of culture but is 
essentially false, worthless, and inhuman. This process of 
psychologically casting off the dominating idols and tempta- 
tions of modem civilization is bringing us back to that spiri- 
tual center in which culture first originated. On the basis of 
its genuine, though perhaps incomplete, religious experi- 
ence, culture is posing many problems of Christianity anew, 
trying to find an answer to them in the Church and searching 
for support and a dialogue. 

But it is precisely at this point that a certain fateful disjoint- 
edness of creative rhythms is revealed, for the Church is 
deaf to these queries and does not know how to answer them. 
Answers exist, they must exist, but how and in what language 
should one begin speaking? All the “modernism,” all the 
“adaptation” introduced by the Church are in reality nothing 
other than manifestations of its profound bondage to secular 
culture. This capitulation is not always voluntary and more 
often than not is the result of a prolonged siege. And this 



siege can take different forms: in different historical periods, 
in different parts of the world and with varying degrees of ac- 
tiveness, the Church is opposed in one place by state athe- 
ism, in another by the ideology of science, and elsewhere by 
totalitarian regimes or the establishment of general material 
prosperity and comfort. Strategy and tactics change, but the 
result is usually the same: the consciousness of the Church 
turns out to be defenseless against hostile pressures. The 
Church closes up on itself, hoping to wait out the siege, then 
suddenly revolts and hurls anathemas, but ends up by trying 
to speak in that alien language imposed from outside. But 
how, in those circumstances, is it possible to speak about 
things that have been expressed only in the unchangeable 
language of Christian Hellenism or medieval scholasticism? 
By creating new concepts and a new liturgical language? By 
creating a new religious art? But then it is a long time since 
the Church seemed once and for all to renounce any desire to 
create cultural values or a new language for religious culture 
itself. It seemed to have overstrained itself in the period of 
its medieval supremacy. And now, in accordance with the 
universal principle of freedom of worship, we Christians are 
prepared to settle conclusively for our compulsory autonomy. 
In the huge and as yet unfinished building of culture, we 
have been magnanimously given the use of a comer with 
icons and lamps, and we seem to have reconciled ourselves 
to this fact. Certain modernists still think that all is not yet 
lost: icons can be replaced by a more modem “religious art, 
and lamp oil by electricity. And indeed, the possibilities for 
renovation and adaptation are not yet exhausted. But would it 
not be self-deception to think that the light of the lamp, how- 
ever much we cherish it, is that Light for the World that is 
destined to transform our whole life and with it the whole 

“The Spirit breathes where He will, and you hear His 
voice, ignorant of whence it comes and whither it goes. . . . 

But we seem not to concede this mysterious freedom of the 
divine call to the world. We want to think that God speaks 


only through our Church organization, only through our rite, 
only through our doctrine and tradition. In this approach the 
Church easily becomes an idol. We turn it from a living, eter- 
nally growing and eternally developing organism expressing 
the unity of man with God into a frozen mechanical form, 
capable of receiving into itself only things that can be cut off 
and adjusted to it. But the Church is life, not an external 
form. Its mission, which we too often forget, is to make ev- 
erything that seeks the Light and aspires to the Truth a truly 
living and growing part of the Body of Christ. 

Today it is particularly important to overcome our enthrall- 
ment by pseudoecclesiasticism. Regular attendance at church 
or familiarity with the order of the Mass does not at all mean 
that only we are necessarily doing good. Our sojourn in the 
Church is not in itself a prerogative or patent on salvation. 
The secret of individual salvation is known only to God. We 
are called by Him to embody Christ’s work in this world and 
to work for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. That is 
why our life in the Church is above all a task (a command- 
ment), the task of achieving greater perfection, of growing in 
the fullness of the grace granted to us, and not an advantage 
that justifies everything we do. We have, indeed, been given 
a great deal, but that only means that still more will be de- 
manded of us. Now we can surmise how the Church and Rus- 
sia may escape from that terrifying blind alley in which they 
find themselves. It is evident that a better future for Russia is 
inseparable from Christianity. And if Russia is to have a re- 
naissance, it can only be accomplished on a religious founda- 
tion. But will the Church have enough strength to start this 
renaissance? At the moment it is experiencing a profound 
crisis and itself needs a renaissance first. Many people cling 
to the vain belief that this is only a crisis of Church govern- 
ment, a crisis of power in the Church. In feet we are ex- 
periencing something much bigger — a crisis in Church 
consciousness itself, in the traditional concept of the con- 
gregation. In various conditions and forms this crisis has now 
affected the Christianity of the whole world. But the Russian 
Orthodox Church is experiencing it in a specific form. Exter- 



nal lack of liberty is paralyzing its life and being internalized, 
it is taking root in its consciousness and becoming equated 
with Church tradition. And to many people it now seems 
unarguable that no creativity is possible, that it is doomed 
and most probably unnecessary. All that remains is to await 
the resolution of our earthly destinies and curse the bishops. 

The most tragic thing of all is that these views are being 
taken over from a gutless and confused older generation by 
the young people and intelligentsia who are coming into the 
Church. It is tragic that they are forgetting and betraying 
their experience of spiritual emancipation. Against the back- 
ground of their conservatively stylized “old people’s” Ortho- 
doxy it is difficult to believe that they have really 
experienced the joy of liberty in Christ and have felt the 
influx of the power of grace. Looking at them makes one 
think that too often conversion to Christianity, to Orthodoxy, 
means no more than a change of ideologies. But ideology, 
however infallibly true it may seem, is incapable of liberat- 
ing man. 

Today, as never before, a Christian initiative is needed to 
counter the godless humanism which is destroying mankind, 
and to prevent humanism from deteriorating into a nonre- 
ligious humanism. We are too passive in our attitude to the 
world. We do not carry our own religious will within our- 
selves, or our care for the world; we seem to have forgotten 
that we have been entrusted with the great task of transform- 
ing the world. We must begin by prophesying inside the 
Church about the genuine foundations for hope offered by 
Christianity, and not by restoring or modernizing things that 
amount merely to historical or cultural incrustations. We 
need new creative efforts, we need a new language. We must 
speak of what is beyond modernism and conservatism alike, 
of what is eternally living and absolute in this world of the 
relative, of what is simultaneously both eternally old and 
eternally young. Our historicism must be metahistorical, it 
must mean not only a breakthrough into eternity but the 
presence of eternity in our own time, metahistory in history. 

Christian activism must lead not to a reformation but to a 



transformation of Christian consciousness and life, and 
through it to a transformation of the world. Only when we 
have entered upon this path shall we be able to answer the 
challenge of godlessness to build our world on autonomous 
principles. Only then shall we be able to answer the call of 
those who are close to the Light, but who are prevented from 
communing with it by our own negligence and inertia. 


Personality and National Awareness 


There is a widespread, if sometimes inexplicit, feeling 
about that Russia has passed her Golgotha and is approaching 
some new historic milestone. 

But what is this milestone? Is it the beginning of a col- 
lapse, of which the growing stream of emigrants would seem 
to offer material proof? Or is it the expectation of resur- 

Hope and faith are locked in a struggle with despair and 
blind ill will; in the present debate on Russia notes of truly 
apocalyptic alarm are increasingly in evidence. 

Are we an accursed and corrupt race or a great people? Are 
we destined to have a future, or was Russia only created, in 
the words of Konstantin Leontyev’s 1 crazed prophecy, to 
bring forth from its vitals the Antichrist? What lies ahead — a 
yawning abyss or a steep and laborious ascent? 

It is a dire symptom in itself that these unmentionable, 
taboo, half-forgotten yet everlasting questions occupy the 
thoughts and minds of every living being in Russia. Only 
when decisive historic changes are in the wind do these 

i. Konstantin Leontyev (1831-1891), a conservative thinker who opposed 
aristocratic and aesthetic values to the prevailing liberal and Nihilist 
theories of his time. He died a monk in the monastery of the Holy Trinity. 



questions pose themselves with such merciless urgency: thus 
it was at the beginning of the seventeenth and eighteenth, 
the beginning and middle of the nineteenth, and at the 
beginning of the twentieth centuries. 

The future, as is well known, casts its shadow before it, 
and we who live in this shadow, remembering our predeces- 
sors’ bitter but profound experience, need to distinguish its 
contours. If we hope to maintain a meaningful historical exis- 
tence, indeed, we must. 

Not so long ago it seemed impossible that the debate about 
Russia, after everything she has suffered, should revive. But 
present developments offer a glimmer of hope that an end to 
peremptory Marxist decisions and predeterminations of Rus- 
sia’s fate may now be near and that henceforward her crip- 
pled soul and body may themselves begin to seek ways back 
to health. 

The debate also offers us a warning. The ideological mono- 
lith that has weighed for long years on Russian life and 
thought has done its work: Russian consciousness is scram- 
bling out from under it toward an unknown future which is 
fragmented as never before. All the old unresolved dilemmas 
of Russian thought are rearing their heads again, intensified, 
complicated and distorted by our unprecedented experiences 
of the last half century. It is not rhetoric, but cold fact, that 
our people’s very life now depends on their solution. 

Unless we can discover in ourselves the source of some 
power to lead our ravaged consciousness back to a single 
spiritual center, all the present enthusiasm for social experi- 
ment may turn out to be Russia’s last agony. 


Of all the questions facing us, perhaps the most painful and 
contentious is that of Russian national rebirth, its potential, 
its principles, its form and direction. 

Why the contention? 

During recent decades many people have come to under- 



stand a long known but eternally neglected truth: that a 
people can perish without being totally annihilated 
physically — it is necessary only to remove its memory, its 
thought and its word, and the soul of the people will die. 
History may observe the numbing spectacle of the dead and 
soulless body’s continued growth for a long time afterward, 
but eventually it witnesses the predestined collapse . 2 

That, it is widely thought today, is the fate in store for the 
Russian people. 

But no man’s heart, if Russia means any more to him than a 
“prison of the peoples,” can remain indifferent to such an 
outcome. And this emotion gives rise to attempts, tentative 
perhaps, misdirected perhaps as yet, but living attempts to 
grope for ways to effect the salvation and rebirth of the na- 
tional soul. 

Different groups among our present educated class have 
different ways of understanding and approaching this already 
clearly defined aspiration for national rebirth — from unques- 
tioning support for any of its manifestations to total aversion 
to the idea itself. 

The recent and continuing controvery over A. Solzheni- 
tsyn’s “Letter to the Soviet Leaders” has shown up this 
specter for all to see. 

Exacerbated national feeling among the various peoples of 
the Soviet Union is now a fact not to be concealed by 
braggart phrases about a “historic new community.” In fact 
this community reveals itself as a none too solid ideological 
crust which can barely restrain the underground tremors of 
forcibly suppressed national energies. But whereas liberal- 
democratic circles in our society unfailingly support national 
independence movements among, say, the Baltic peoples, 
their attitude to similar tendencies in Russia herself is one of 
keen suspicion, alienation, fear and unconcealed hostility. 

2. A. S. Khomyakov in his polemic with the “progressists” clearly under- 
stood that a people “may perfect its knowledge, while its morals decline and 
the country perishes; the administration may behave according to the rule 
book and therefore appear to be in order, yet the people decline and the 
country perishes. A center may fortuitously consolidate itself while all the 
limbs are weak and diseased, and the country yet again perish.” 



Everyone knows the immediate historical causes of this ap- 
parently paradoxical situation. 

The intelligentsia’s unwavering aversion to the false of- 
ficial patriotism into which Stalin strove to direct the genuine 
national exaltation of the war years (succeeding generations 
will forever associate this “patriotism” with the purges of 
“cosmopolitans” and arrests of Jews), plus guilt for the Rus- 
sification of the fringe republics and hostility to official anti- 
Semitism — all this directly motivates the humanist protest 
against “Great Russian chauvinism” or — to put it another 
way — “nationalism.” 

However, a number of publicistic articles in recent years 
(by G. Pomerants, 3 R. Medvedev and others) and recently, 
unfortunately, the attitude of A. Sakharov, together with per- 
sonal contacts with today’s intellectuals, lead me to conclude 
that the true extent and purpose of this protest goes much 
further and deeper. It has often seemed to me that, with rare 
exceptions, these circles regard not just nationalism, as a 
specifically defined ideology (of which more later), but any 
symptoms of a Russian national psychology and awareness 
with skeptical hostility or at best guarded suspicion. 

This is a replay of the situation which S. Bulgakov 4 once 
defined as typical of Russian prerevolutionary society — “the 
moral boycott and auto-boycott of national consciousness.” 
The forms are new, of course, but it remains essentially the 
same as before. The boycott is nominally intended to defend 
the dignity of the human personality. 

Our progressive, humanistically inclined intelligentsia 
makes no clear distinction in its mind between “national” 
and “nationalist,” because it tends to suspect that national 
feeling by its very nature is morally inferior and immature. 

Despite the fatal blows the twentieth century has dealt to 
our faith in man as such and the progressive enlargement of 
his rights, this faith for inexplicable and irrational reasons 
still remains the basic postulate of the moral consciousness of 

3. For a discussion of Pomerants’s writings, see pages 244-246, 259-261, 
264-265, 270. — Trans. 

4. See note on page 20. — Trans. 



the modem liberal-democratic intelligentsia (I use this con- 
ventional term for want of a better one). 

Now, as in the past, this faith inspires noble self-sacrifices, 
examples of which we can all call to mind. 

But that same faith, as we shall see, is what lies at the heart 
of the process of denationalization of faithless humanist phi- 
losophy, and this reveals its inherent ambiguity and tragic 

The freedom of individuals and their unification in man- 
kind as a whole are the alpha and omega of the humanist phi- 
losophy, the formula for the progressive development of the 
human race in history and its most rational outcome. The 
humanist ideal regards the nation as one of human society’s 
transitional forms, which at a certain point (it is deemed to 
have arrived already) hinders the achievement of a higher 
form of human community and which is in any case inferior 
to that shining goal. 

Ignoring the nuances, this philosophy, which is usually 
couched in socialist terms, is closely related to V. I. Lenin’s 
famous dictum: “Socialism’s aim is not only to abolish the 
fragmentation of humanity into small states and to end all 
distinctions between nations, not only to bring the nations 
closer together, but to bring about their fusion.” 6 

Liberation from the bonds of nationhood is part of human- 
ism’s plan for the emancipation of the human personality. 
For this reason any intensification of national feeling, when 
not connected with a struggle for freedom from foreign politi- 
cal oppression (homegrown oppression is our own!), is 
regarded as atavistic reaction fit to be condemned uncondi- 

From this utterly rationalist point of view, finding the an- 
swer to questions about the relationship between the indi- 
vidual human personality and the nation and between the 

5. Fichte in his early years formulated this striving to throw off the bonds of 
nationhood more individualistically and romantically: “Let those bom of the 
earth, whose acknowledged fatherland is the cmst of the earth, the rivers 
and mountains, remain citizens of the defunct state. . . . But the spirit 
whose likeness is the sun is irresistibly drawn and moves toward light and 
justice. We may rest serene in that feeling of universal citizenship. . . 


nation and mankind presents no difficulty. The human per- 
sonality’s susceptibility to national feelings, its conscious af- 
firmation of nationality, is demeaning to its dignity, 
subjecting its freedom to the dictates of blind tribalism, and 
stifling its rational aspirations in the chaos of patrimonial life. 
Also, insofar as the historical limitations of the national unit 
have been rationally identified and scientifically accounted 
for, it follows that any excessive emphasis on it or foolish 
clinging to national distinctions at the present time will 
hinder the fixture union of mankind and serve the forces of 
division and reaction. 

I think I am not alone in frequently hearing reproaches and 
even severe moral censure addressed to Russian writers (the 
nation’s greatest geniuses included) who lack the moral fiber 
to overcome this base instinct.® 

But is the answer to these painful questions as obvious as 
the proponents of rationalist humanism would have us be- 
lieve? And why are they so discouragingly certain of their 
moral rectitude? 

To get to the bottom of this we must take a closer look at 
the central concept beloved of all humanists today — the 
human personality. 

And at once we enter an area of total confusion. 

It will be easy enough to receive an exposition of the pre- 
cise rights that are due to the individual personality, and we 
shall, of course, be reminded of its lofty dignity. But if we 
ask, what is the human personality, the definition will proba- 
bly be “a sum of psychological qualities,” or words to that 

But we are hardly likely to receive a satisfactory answer to 

6. Let us here note a characteristic attitude to Russian culture often encoun- 
tered among today’s intelligentsia. They can combine love of this culture 
and its “highest achievements” with contempt for Russian history, fear of the 
“bestiality” of the Russian people, and a half-mocking, half-condescending 
view of its spiritual values. They regard these “highest achievements” not as 
an organic phenomenon but as an unaccountable anomaly of Russian life. 
Evidently they have genuinely lost all understanding and feeling for the in- 
divisibility of the individual genius and the genius of the people. Therefore 
the apparent contradiction between Russia herself and her spiritual culture 
fails to strike them as unnatural. 



the question of why, precisely, must the human personality 
have all these rights, why must we acknowledge that one 
“sum of psychological qualities” is equal to another? What is 
the basis of such an assumption? We shall of course be re- 
ferred to “natural justice” and the “social contract” and “it 
stands to reason” and “our innate moral consciousness,” and 
more of the same, but only by some strange mental aberra- 
tion can this be taken seriously as a sound basis for a juridical 
concept in the 1970s. 

We discover with astonishment that so-called rationalist 
humanism actually lacks an adequate rational basis for its 
defense of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human 
personality — for which it has often risked both life and limb. 

The American Founding Fathers who many years ago first 
propounded the “eternal rights of man and the citizen” pos- 
tulated that every human being bears the form and likeness 
of God; he therefore has an absolute value, and consequently 
also the right to be respected by his fellows. 

Rationalism, positivism and materialism, developing in op- 
position to religion, successively destroyed the memory of 
this absolute source of human rights. The unconditional 
equality of persons before God was replaced by the condi- 
tional equality of human individuals before the law. 

Deprived of divine authority, the concept of the human 
personality could now be defined conditionally, and there- 
fore inevitably arbitrarily. The concrete person became a 
juridical metaphor, a contentless abstraction, the subject of 
legal freedoms and restrictions. 

And it is here, in the admission of the conditionality of the 
human personality, that we find the root of its calamitous or- 
deals in our barbarous world. If the human personality is 
conditional, then so are its rights. Conditional too is the rec- 
ognition of its dignity, which comes into painful conflict with 
surrounding reality. 

But conditionality, by its very nature, is neither indestruc- 
tible nor eternally binding. A given condition can survive 
only insofar as the force which supports it remains in exis- 



tence. Once the force is spent, nothing can logically prevent 
us from breaking the condition. 

If the human personality is not absolute but conditional, 
then the call to respect it is only a pious wish, which we may 
obey or disregard. Confronted with a force which demands 
disrespect for the personality, rationalist humanism has no 
logical arguments with which to refute it. 

In breaking the link between the human personality and 
the absolute source of its rights, and yet affirming them as 
something to be taken for granted, rationalist humanism has 
from the very outset been inherently inconsistent, as its more 
logical successors very quickly understood. Darwin, Marx, 
Nietzsche and Freud (and many others) resolved the incon- 
sistency each in his own way, leaving not one stone upon 
another in the edifice of blind faith in man’s dignity. They 
knocked the human personality off its phantom humanist 
pedestal, tore off and ridiculed its mantle of sanctity and in- 
violacy, and showed it its true station in life — as the cobble- 
stone paving the road for “superman,” or the drop of water 
destined with millions of others to irrigate the historical soil 
for the happiness of future generations, or the lump of flesh 
dragging itself painfully and uncomprehendingly to union 
with its fellows. 

These men represented the theoretical, logical culmination 
of mankind’s humanist rebellion against God. They declared 
“our innate moral consciousness” to be self-deception, nox- 
ious illusion, fiction — as demanded by a rationally ordered 

This century’s totalitarianism, trampling the human per- 
sonality and all its rights, rhinocerouslike, underfoot, is only 
the application of this theory to life, or humanism put into 
practice . 7 

Yet oddly enough, despite the logic of humanism’s histori- 
cal development, this initial variant of it (defined above as 

7. The evolution we have only sketched here has been studied in detail by 
Russian thinkers — F. Dostoyevsky, S. Bulgakov, S. Frank, N. Berdyayev, 
Fr. Pavel (Florensky) and many others. Their writings are strongly recom- 
mended to the interested reader. 



“rationalist humanism”) has not entirely followed this high 
road of reason, but has survived practically unchanged on the 
sidelines until our own time, representing in fact an archaic 
survival from the eighteenth century. 

It has maintained its tradition of moral feeling unnaturally 
married to atheism of the mind (not of the heart!) while still 
believing in the inalienable rights of man as such. But this 
utopian humanism refuses to acknowledge its historical af- 
finity with the “humanism” which has become a reality. Fur- 
thermore, it even joins battle with it for these very rights. 

The clash is, by an irony of history, between two ele- 
ments — the initial and the final — of one and the same pro- 
cess. It is an unequal struggle, with utopian humanism at a 
painful disadvantage. As we have already said, it cannot logi- 
cally oppose its brutal and consistent younger relative. The 
source of its courageous protest is irrational, for it is that very 
moral light brought into the world by religion, but “ra- 
tionalist humanism” cannot acknowledge this without ceas- 
ing to be itself. 

Its fete is tragic: it testifies both to the indestructibility of 
man’s moral nature and to the hopeless dilemmas in which 
he is enmeshed when he overlooks the' religious roots of that 
nature. It is precisely because of its atheism that humanism 
so often either slips into despair or, denying itself, adopts a 
belief in solutions through violence, when the human per- 
sonality invariably becomes a tool. 

A humane attitude to life (a more precise term than the am- 
biguous “humanism”), if it ignores its origins, rests on flimsy, 
shifting foundations. As Dostoyevsky once observed, such 
unmindful “humaneness is only a habit, a product of civiliza- 
tion. It may completely disappear.” 

Do we need to quote the examples that have confirmed the 
terrible truth of those words a thousandfold? 

The vagueness and abstract nature of the humanist concept 
of the human personality undermines confidence in its abil- 
ity to solve the problem of the relationship between human 
personality and the nation. Humanism has forgotten what 
the human personality is. And perhaps it has also forgotten 



what a nation is. So should we not in fact discuss the rela- 
tionships between the human personality and anything 
whatever in the context of the teaching that gave birth to the 
very concept of the human personality, namely, Chris- 


But here we come up against the inspired objection of the 
Apostle Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek » . 

Many who quote this objection (including A. Krasnov-Levi- 
tin in No. 106 of the “Vestnik RSKD” 8 — though there are 
few enough who don’t quote it) regard it as so authoritative, 
incontrovertible and altogether crushing as to eliminate the 
entire question of relations between the human personality 
and the nation from the Christian point of view, as if it were 
not a question at all, or at any rate one long ago answered. 
For Christianity the human personality exists, the nation 
does not 

We do not propose to quibble with St. Paul, still less to 
dispute his authority, for he did write those words. But they 
did have a continuation which for some reason is invariably 
overlooked by the proponents of Christian “universalism” 
(or, to run a little ahead, pseudouniversalism): “. . . neither 
male nor female . . .” 

Are its proponents bold enough to maintain that Chris- 
tianity, with its teachings on marriage, makes no distinction 
between the sexes? 

Did not the apostle to the heathen rather mean that there is 
no difference between Greek and Jew, man and woman, 
slave and freeman in one particular respect? He said so 
quite explicitly elsewhere: “For the scripture saith, Who- 
soever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is 
no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same 
Lord over all . . (Rom. 10:11-12). 

To take the scriptural argument further, have our “univer- 
8. See pages 95 to 96 and note on page 96. — Trans. 



salists” ever stopped to consider texts like “ All nations 
whom thou hast made . . .” (Psalm 86:9)? Do they re- 
member that Christ brought the good news, not to scattered 
individuals, but to the people of Israel as a whole? Or 
Christ’s words: “Go ye therefore and teach all na- 
tions . . .”? 

And does this not mean, despite all their disclaimers, that 
the “nation problem” does exist for Christianity, and that at- 
tempts to discard it (or even morally destroy it) on the basis 
of half a dozen imperfectly understood words are, to say the 
least, unjustified and premature? 

In our atheist age, however, even Christians tend to shy 
away from scriptural arguments. This obliges us to transpose 
the question into a somewhat — if not altogether — different 

What is a nation? What is the essence of this mysterious 
human community at which “universalists” of various kinds 
have chanted spells (“abracadabra vanish!”) for a century and 
more, but which has obstinately refused to vanish? Is it com- 
mon territory? A common economy? Language? Kinship? Or 
all of them taken together? Or perhaps something else al- 

Dostoyevsky’s notebook contains the following words: 
“The nation is nothing more than the national personality.” 

He returned to this idea many times, it was one of his most 
intimate and penetrating thoughts. He understood the na- 
tional personality not metaphorically, not in the abstract, but 
precisely as a living personal unity. He saw it as the spiritual 
reality that binds all the concrete, historical and empirical 
manifestations of national life into a single whole. 9 

Well, they will say, Dostoyevsky was a “mystic” and is not 
much in demand these days. But: 

“A nation is not a collection of different beings, it is an 
organized being and moreover a moral personality. A won- 
derful secret has been revealed — the great soul of France.” 

9. This inspired intuition was philosophically developed in Russian litera- 
ture by L. Karsavin, N. Trubetskoy, N. Lossky and others. 



The author of these words was no mystic. It was the 
famous historian of the French Revolution, Michelet Rather 
than weary the reader with quotations, we ask him to take 
our word for it that the same idea, although not always 
equally well defined, appears in many spiritually sensitive 
people of all ages and all nations, however different their 
personal philosophies. 

Just one more quotation, then, a very characteristic one 
from A. Herzen, the great writer and little understood idol of 
the Russian intelligentsia, to whom the mystery of the nation 
as a personality was a matter of deep concern: 

“It seems to me,” he wrote, “that there is something in 
Russian life higher than the community and stronger than the 
might of the state; it is hard to capture in words, harder still 
to point to with the finger. I mean that inner, not quite con- 
scious power which wondrously preserved the Russian peo- 
ple under the yoke of the Mongol hordes and the German 
bureaucracy, under the Tartar knout from the east and the 
corporal’s staves from the west; that inner power which pre- 
served the attractive open character and lively wit of our 
peasants under the humiliating oppression of serfdom, and 
which when commanded by the tsar to educate itself, within 
one hundred years replied with the resounding phenomenon 
of Pushkin; I mean, finally, that power of self-confidence 
which lives on in our breasts. This constant power has pre- 
served the Russian people and its unwavering faith in itself, 
preserved it outside all forms and against all forms.” 

This sense of the nation as a personality, which has been 
expressed by individuals, corresponds with and confirms the 
people’s awareness of its identity as embodied in folklore. Its 
image covertly governs our speech, for when we speak of the 
“dignity” of the people, its “duty,” its “sins” or its “responsi- 
bility,” we are making concrete, that is to say, unmetaphori- 
cal, use of terms that are applicable only to the moral life of a 

Finally, the unfathomable mystery of the nation’s ultimate 
destiny (here again we shall have to resort to the Holy Scrip- 



tures), the mystery of its indestructibility and autonomy un- 
bounded by space and time, in other words the secret of its 
metaphysical essence, is revealed in the Apocalypse: 

“And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the 
light of it [the City of God] and they shall bring the glory and 
honor of the nations into it” (Rev. 21 .24 and 26). And, says St. 
John the Divine, the disciple whom Jesus loved, this shall 
come to pass after the first heaven and the first earth have 
passed away. 

This concept of the nation as a person cannot be com- 
pletely translated into the language of reason and therefore 
remains altogether foreign to rationalism and positivism, not 
to mention materialism. (That is, specifically, the philos- 
ophies, since there are of course exceptions among their ad- 

However, even those endowed with neither a religious 
outlook on life nor any special spiritual sensitivity can to a 
certain extent verify the reality of the nation s personality, as 
distinct from the empirical manifestations of national life. All 
that is required is to examine with care and without preju- 
dice (not necessarily to live through at first hand!) the experi- 
ences of the Russian emigration throughout the last century 

Many Russians have shaken the dust of the hated and des- 
potic fatherland off their feet, cursing and denouncing its 
monstrous face, and fled to Europe, the land of sacred mira- 
cles,” to liberty, equality and fraternity. But very soon, quite 
against their expectations and desires, these same Russians 
were overcome by a spontaneous sense of some irreparable 
loss. The trouble, as many of them understood, was not sim- 
ply the result of an unfamiliar environment or a foreign lan- 
guage (most of them, after all, knew European languages and 
European conditions just as well as their own) but something 
else. They gradually came to see the “land of sacred mira- 
cles” as an “abomination of desolation,” and their own exis- 
tence in it — though often quite comfortable — as illusory 
and insubstantial. 

And unexpectedly the bond with the motherland, this 



“darkness unmasked,” to use Marina Tsvetayeva’s 10 phrase, 
came to be the only thing that mattered, with a direct bearing 
on the very essence of their being . 11 They came to realize 
that behind the outward appearances of the life of their peo- 
ple they had failed to perceive what was most important, the 
essence of which Herzen wrote. They had not suspected it 
before and only now, in their isolation, could they begin to 
divine its real meaning and understand Russia as a personal- 
ity, to whom their own personalities were by some mysteri- 
ous process indissolubly bound. In their dark homeland 
these people suddenly perceived a fount of light, and were 
drawn to it irresistibly even when inevitable destruction 
stared them in the face. 

This is the secret of the spiritual nature of that famous and 
mysterious Russian nostalgia, the unaccountable feeling of 
having lost some whole whose lack makes man’s life seem in- 

Slavophiles and Westemizers alike were stricken with it, 
positivists and mystics, Russian Orthodox and Russian Catho- 
lics; it led them to mental instability and often to irretriev- 
able breakdown. Russia continues to haunt her outcasts and 
fugitives all their lives: it is not the immensity of her plains, 
nor the beauty of her “little birch trees” which have now 
become something of a joke, nor even any peculiar trait of 
the Russian soul, but she herself, her mysterious face which 
evidently possesses such fascination. 

And it is perhaps because rationalism and materialism held 
such comparatively short sway in Russia that this emotion is 
so extraordinarily acute among Russian emigres, demon- 
strating that their spiritual capacity to be aware of their par- 
ticipation in the whole has not altogether atrophied, that they 

10. Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941), one of the finest Russian poets of the 
twentieth century, emigrated in 1922, but returned to the Soviet Union in 
1939 as a result of her husband's return. In 1941 she hanged herself. 

11. “Having started with a cry of joy,” writes Herzen of his spiritual experi- 
ences, “upon crossing the frontier, I ended with a spiritual return to my 
homeland. Faith in Russia saved me when I was on the verge of moral de- 
struction. ... I thank my homeland for my faith in her and for the healing it 
gave me.” 



are actively conscious of the inclusion of their individual per- 
sonalities in a more complex unity — the collective or, to use 
the traditional term of Russian thought, “ corporate’ ’ national 


That is what we call the nation. 

We have already said that personality in its original sense 
is a specifically Christian concept. 

It was unknown to the ancient world, whose consciousness 
was totally individualistic. The Greeks, for instance, de- 
spised all barbarians, and the citizens of Rome despised all 

We have forgotten the Christian origins of our idea of the 
“personal” as of something that gives every individual his 
qualities of absoluteness, unrepeatability and irreducibility 
to other individuals — and this insensibility threatens ulti- 
mately to render meaningless the words we all so willingly 

We often confuse the concepts of personality and individ- 
ual in our speech and use them as if they were synonymous, 
but in Christian thought they are poles apart. 

This requires some explanation. 

In Christian thought the world is not simply the arithmeti- 
cal sum of its visible parts, but a definite hierarchy, all of 
whose levels are personalized. This applies even to the struc- 
ture of the life of the Deity, Whose mystery is embodied in 
the triune dogma of the Three Persons of the One God; and it 
applies equally to the structure of the life of mankind, inas- 
much as “Christianity,” in the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, 
“is an imitation of the nature of God.” Christian ideology dis- 
tinguishes in God a single nature and its existence in persons 
(or personalities). The same distinction lies at the heart of all 
Christian anthropology and may in our view also be applica- 
ble to the question of the true role and significance of the 
“nation as personality” in mankind. 

The source of the Christian interpretation of this question 
is in two great historical events — the Incarnation and the 

In Christ’s time there were many peoples already existing 



on earth, occupying various territories, speaking various lan- 
guages, and warring with one another. Was their appearance 
merely a historical accident? The words of the Bible about 
the “nations thou hast made” answer this question in the neg- 
ative; the existence of peoples was part of the plan of cre- 
ation, forming part of God’s design for the world. In the 
course of their history, however, the peoples had lost their 
common measure, which Christ then restored to them. 

Having assumed the perfect nature of man in the Incarna- 
tion, Christ forever confirmed the natural unity of mankind, 
once enshrined in the person of the first man, “Old Adam.” 

But Christ did not come to do away with the design of the 
Creator. He did not become the flesh of history so as to abol- 
ish it, but in order to become its spiritual center, its course of 
energy and its purpose. 

Man’s nature is one — says Christianity — but “all nature 
is contained in somebody’s personality and can have no other 
existence.” 12 In other words, Christianity introduced to the 
world the concept of the plurality of personalities of a single 
mankind. Personalities not just individual, but also national. 

This concept in particular is symbolized in the events of 
the Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descended on the apos- 
tles and they were endowed with the gift of speaking in dif- 
ferent tongues. “And they were all amazed and marveled, 
saying to one another, behold, are not all these which speak 
Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, 
wherein we were bom? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, 
and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cap- 
padocia, and Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphilia, in 
Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers 
of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do 
hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of 

The Christian Church was bom not in a single world lan- 
guage but in the different tongues of the apostles, reaffirming 
the plurality of national paths to a single goal. 

12. The words of the authoritative theologian of the Eastern Church, Leon- 
tius of Byzantium. 



We can now easily understand the Christian view of the 
difference between the personality and the individual and 
the new principle contributed to the so-called national ques- 
tion by the concept of the nation as personality. 

The individual embodies the opposite of the common mea- 
sure in mankind, a fragment of the one human nature, self- 
sufficient and absolute, consisting of uniform particles 
formed from a mingling of nature and personality. Individual 
men and individual nations are impenetrable to one another. 

The personality, as opposed to the individual, is not a part 
of some whole, it comprehends the whole within itself. The 
personality is not a fragment of one nature, but embraces the 
whole fullness of nature; therefore the idea of personality 
presupposes the existence of a common measure in mankind. 

(To the contemporary mind these meditations may, indeed 
probably do, seem exceedingly abstract and divorced from 
the alarming reality of today. But we shall soon see the prac- 
tical consequences that follow from forgetting and distorting 
these Christian ideas.) 

If the nation is a corporate personality endowed with its 
being by God, then it cannot be defined as a “historical com- 
munity of people” or a “force of nature and history” (Vladi- 
mir Solovyov). The nation is a level in the hierarchy of the 
Christian cosmos, a part of God’s immutable purpose. Na- 
tions are not created by a people’s history. Rather, the na- 
tion’s personality realizes itself through that history or, to put 
it another way, the people in their history fulfill God’s design 
for them. 

In this sense the nation is distinct from the empirical peo- 
ple. The history of a people chronicles its discovery of its 
own personality. There is no concrete moment in the life of a 
people that fails to manifest its personality, and conversely, 
no historical situation is capable of plumbing the full depths 
of its personality. 

Different stages of its self-discovery may come into sharp 
conflict with one another, as happens in the individual life of 
a man; this can lead to terrible declines, but so long as the 
people remains aware of its personal unity — and therefore 



of its freedom — it can ieemerge from even the deepest 

The acknowledgment by all members of a national unit of 
their personal unity is what we call national consciousness. 
It brings together all aspects and empirical manifestations of 
a nation’s historical being; its aim, in the words of Vladimir 
Solovyov, is to achieve in the destiny and spirit of the people 
“what God thinks of it in eternity.” A necessary precondition 
of the people’s existence and development is historical mem- 
ory. If this is destroyed, the people’s self-awareness suffers 
pathological distortion; it comes to identify its personality, to 
its own detriment, with the present moment of its existence; 
it forgets that all empirical personality is imperfect and that 
the fulfillment of personal life can only be achieved by a con- 
tinuous and conscious process of development. 

The destruction of historical memory kills a people’s spiri- 
tual yearning for this fulfillment, cripples its moral personal- 
ity, undermines its faith in the possibility of the creative 
conquest of evil and its hope of rebirth. 

If peoples are recognized as personalities, this leads to rec- 
ognition of their equality, giving them all an indisputable 
right to be respected and loved by all others, affirming the 
absolute value of their national identity. 

But how can the freedom of the individual human person- 
ality be reconciled with its membership in a national whole? 

No man is bom into the world as a creature without per- 
sonality, a clean slate. If he is to exercise free self-determina- 
tion in his earthly life he must already be, at the moment of 
his birth, a qualitatively, and therefore also nationally, de- 
fined person. This definition is admittedly only an ideal and 
potential one, a metaphysical foundation for our spiritual na- 
ture; it does not violate or diminish the gift of human free- 
dom. Every person is free to evade the fulfillment of his 
personal destiny, free to reject God’s design for him, to forget 
the roots of his being; but destroy these roots completely he 

And whatever new characteristics a man may acquire in 
the ups and downs of his life, his innermost being and sub- 



conscious self always preserve some vague idea of his ori- 
gins, of his “prototype.” In many people this tends to come 
to the surface as an oppressive, restless dissatisfaction with 
life, a sense of some unfulfilled vocation. 

But another way is always open to every human personal- 
ity — the way of self-knowledge, plumbing the depths of 
one's own self and the spiritual source of one’s being. On this 
path toward God a sense of national awareness sooner or 
later comes into its own — an awareness of the individual’s 
metaphysical relationship with the corporate self of the peo- 
ple, and through it with the corporate self of mankind. 

But all these correlations can be considered to be no more 
than the theoretical base of Christian consciousness. Real life 
is still very far from realizing them. As in the time of the 
early Christians, they only show the way by which mankind 
may achieve the fulfillment of personal existence. 

In Christian terms this higher level of personal being is 
called the Church. Mankind as the Church is the fulfillment 
of the future, toward which the constantly changing reality of 
the existing world must strive so as to become one with its 

But every personality, individual or national, being 
unique, approaches this union in its own way, striving to 
achieve fulfillment within itself; only thus is the true whole 

Christianity does not ask mankind to deny the variety of 
the personalities composing it, nor to become an amorphous 
mass. It urges mankind to transform itself entirely, “unto the 
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). 
Every people, every individual person must achieve his ful- 
fillment in the Church. When this comes to. pass, when all 
nations have achieved this goal, this will be the perfect ful- 
fillment of the corporate personality of mankind — Christ’s 
Church, in which the nations’ spiritual experience, their 
“glory and honor,” will be laid at Christ’s feet. 

“All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and wor- 
ship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name.” 

This is mankind’s free and common purpose. 




The destruction of the Christian base of the nation could 
not but have disastrous consequences for its later history. 

That is not to say, of course, that it was not sick even in its 
Christian context — sometimes with abstract pseudouniver- 
salism, sometimes with religious nationalism. These distor- 
tions in practice often caused suffering to numerous human 
victims, and it would be intolerable hypocrisy for Chris- 
tianity to try to duck its historical responsibility for it. 

However, the degeneration of national awareness started 
in earnest with the spread of atheism, rationalism, positivism 
and materialism. 

As the result of this degeneration there arose two atheist 
ideologies (in the broadest sense) — universalism and na- 

Both are worldwide in their scope, both have appeared in 
past Russian history and still exert a powerful influence on its 

We touched briefly on the former while expounding the 
“rationalist humanist” view of the national question. Now we 
can take a different and wider view of this ideology so as to 
evaluate its real significance and the role which, whatever 
the subjective intentions of its proponents, it has played in 
Russian history and may play in the history of mankind. 

The beginning of the collapse of Russia’s integral, Chris- 
tian national awareness was unusually stormy, thanks to the 
brutal reforms of Peter the Great, the first Russian Nihilist. 
For reasons of space we cannot here go into details of this 
process, which led to the agonizing bisection of the national 
personality; we only sketch in the rough outline. 

How did it happen that the “educated class” and the “peo- 
ple” in Russia came to be opposed to one another? What 
were the origins of the notorious problems of the “in- 
telligentsia and the people,” regarded as one of the most 
characteristic traits of recent Russian history? 



This problem is sometimes oversimplified as the unscrupu- 
lous “disengagement” of the intelligentsia from the people, 
as if it were a deliberate act. This oversimplification, how- 
ever, ignores the entire tragedy of a dichotomy of which Rus- 
sian writers from Dostoyevsky — nay, from Pushkin — to 
Blok 13 have always been keenly aware. 

For many Russians this “disengagement” took place sub- 
consciously and at first they were not subjectively aware of it 
at all. They lost their faith in God while at the same time re- 
taining their love of the “people” and often an altruistic de- 
sire to “serve” it. 

But in their minds, without realizing it, they substituted 
the social image of the people for the face of the people — 
since the people as a whole cannot be comprehended ra- 
tionalistically and materialistically. Then they were faced 
with the fatal question (which could only be asked at all 
when the national personality was sick): who in Russia is to 
be regarded as the people ? Naturally enough, in an agricul- 
tural country like Russia, it was mainly the peasantry who 
came to be called the “people.” 

And it was to the peasantry that the intelligentsia decided 
to communicate their idea of “progress,” “enlightenment,” 
and the “universal” social forms that had developed in West- 
ern Europe . 14 

But it was precisely the “people” that proved to be most 
unreceptive to this salutary universal ideal, and it was in con- 
tact with them that the intelligentsia felt most “foreign” in its 
own country. Suddenly the intelligentsia saw the Russian 
people as no more than a “reactionary mass,” clinging stub- 
bornly to their superstitions and loath to acquire the fruits of 
European enlightenment. 

“Progressive” Russian society swung to the belief that the 
Russian “people,” in Nietzsche’s celebrated expression, was 
“something to be overcome” — for its own good, of course. 

13. See note 7 on page 156. — Trans. 

14. “The task of the educated class in Russia is to be the bearer of civiliza- 
tion to the people.” I. S. Turgenev’s words were quoted approvingly as far 
back as 1910 by the Cadet leader P. N. Milyukov in his attack on die Vekhi 
version of the intelligentsia’s history. 



That was the beginning of a process that in a revised form 
is still going on — the “salvation” of Russia from herselfj sal- 
vation through the renunciation of her national personality 
and the acquisition of “universal” features . 15 

With the increasing fragmentation of Russian society, the 
concept of the “people” in liberal and populist thought be- 
came attenuated , 16 until at length it degenerated into Marx- 
ism with its theory of class hatred. 

Adopting a platform of hostility on principle to the concept 
of a national community, taking the sociological abstraction 
of “class” to be the only reality, inscribing its banners with 
the slogan “the proletariat has no fatherland,” Marxism 
became the consistent and pure embodiment of national ni- 

It was not its progenitor, however; it undertook merely to 
finish the job of depersonalizing the people started by Rus- 
sian “progressive circles” long before . 17 Its inspiration, like 
theirs, was the idea of “building in the desert” (Pisarev’s 18 
expression) and it detested, as they did, the “idols” which 
had for centuries defined the moral nature of the Russian 
people, enabling it to distinguish between “good” and “evil” 
and preserving its self-awareness as a personality. 

15. “The masses, like nature,” wrote the Westemist historian T. Granovsky 
in the 1840s, “are either senselessly cruel or senselessly kind. They stagnate 
under the burden of historical and natural factors from which only the indi- 
vidual personality frees itself through thought. This breaking down of the 
masses by thought constitutes the process of history.” 

16. Typical was the Russian press debate over the events of 3 April 1878 in 
Moscow, when the butchers of Okhotny Ryad savagely beat up the partici- 
pants in a student demonstration. Publicists argued loud and long about 
whether the butchers could be regarded as “the people.” 

17. Here is how M. V. Tugan-Baranovsky, the Russian socialist intelligen- 
tsia's theoretician, defined that intelligentsia at the beginning of this cen- 
tury. What mattered in an intellectual of this type was that “he was 
permeated with revolutionary spirit and had the greatest disgust for Russian 
historical traditions, regarding himself in this respect as an out and out ren- 
egade. ... As for traditional Russian culture . . . hostility to it is the most 
typical mark of the intellectual. . • . The Russian intellectual is uprooted 
from his historical soil and consequently selects the social ideal which 
seems best from the rationalist point of view. This is the socialist ideal — 
cosmopolitan, supranational and suprahistorical.” 

18. See note 4 on page 156 .— Trans. 


In order to destroy and supplant those “idols,” Marxism in 
Russia undertook a campaign “to overcome” the people the 
like of which world history had never seen. 

A “new historic community of people” was to rise from the 
“ethnic masses” of the former Russian Empire, but first they 
had to be “transformed.” How this “transformation” was 
brought about, first and foremost with regard to the Russian 
people, is now well enough known. 

Within a short time the Russian people had been brought 
to a state of almost total ignorance of their own history, de- 
prived of their national culture, almost deprived of their re- 
viled and persecuted Church, which survived by a miracle, 
and became, as the transformers had intended, a reliable 
buttress of the present and future international. 

All Europe of the Left, where the processes of “dena- 
tionalization” and “internationalization” were also taking 
their course, applauded and still applauds this outstanding 
success of the “Russian Marxists.” Now it too is beginning to 
fear it is lagging behind the country of progressive socialism, 
and is urging and goading its own governments to catch up. 

The “teachers” of the West and the “disciples” of the East 
have changed places. 

“Western Europe” has lost its monopoly as a measure of 
the “universal,” a role which is increasingly being taken over 
by socialist Eastern Europe. (In the real East, meanwhile, a 
new and awesome claimant for this role is emerging into the 
open — Communist China, which already overshadows ear- 
lier idols in the eyes of the European “New Left.”) 

The universal human ideal was conclusively and scien- 
tifically defined in the slogan of “socialist integration,” 
which was held to apply in principle to the whole of man- 
kind. It is true that Western adherents of this concept still 
tend to be shocked by what they call the “Asiatic” traits of 
socialism as at present practiced, but this merely shows that 
their minds are still “weighed down by the nightmare of the 
past” (Marx), in this case the traditions of the national democ- 

This exchange of roles between the “enlightened” West 



and the East with its “centuries of stagnating in savagery” 
has led to some confusion and muddle in the camp of the de- 
fenders of socialist “denationalization.” Western radicals 
were extremely upset, and then openly annoyed, by what 
they saw as the “retrograde” movement in the USSR for 
democratic rights, for “living standards approaching those of 
the West” (A. Sakharov), against which the main thrust of 
their own opposition is (openly or secretly) directed. Increas- 
ingly the leftist press counterattacks in an attempt to neutral- 
ize the unfortunate (for it) impact of demands for legality in 
the socialist countries. Accusations made against “dissenters” 
in the Soviet Union range from ones of “naivete” to “reaction- 
ary” — and from their own point of view the Western radi- 
cals, striving for socialism, are of course right. 

Their freedoms are stale and dilapidated, they do not know 
what to do with them; they are tired of seeing “no signs on 
earth or in heaven” (Jean-Paul Sartre), tired of their desper- 
ate isolation in the world. And to save them from all this 
they need an ideological faith: as a prop for their existence, 
as a nostrum for a better tomorrow, as a basis for struggle. In 
the name of this faith and for the sake of dissolving their own 
chaotic will in the purposeful will of the masses, they are 
prepared to give up this excessively heavy burden of con- 
tentless freedom and the limitless rights of the free per- 

Therefore when voices are heard in the countries where 
the idea has come to pass defending these same rights and 
threatening to undermine their ideological faith, they prefer 
not to believe them. This disbelief of like-minded circles in 
the West deepens the Russian liberal democrats’ mood of 
suicidal pessimism, despair and confusion. These moods may 
eventually lead to a thorough reappraisal of our intelligent- 
sia’s philosophical first principles (for some it is already 
beginning). For the moment, however, they are still domi- 
nated by the urge to reorganize the life of mankind on ratio- 
nal principles with the aid of science and technology, and 
committed to the convergence of East and West in order to 
bring it about. And still, of course, they condemn the growth 



of national awareness as an obstacle of the normal advance of 
universal progress. 

Great as are the differences between today’s socialists, 
they share a faith in the progress of universal social forms, in 
the advance of human societies toward a mechanical fusion, 
toward a higher level of existence. All varieties of socialism 
claim to be scientifically based, whether on Marxism or on 
some more contemporary scientific-rationalist approach. 

Nevertheless, despite its pretensions to science, socialism 
is no more than faith in the ultimate triumph of reason on 
earth. How else could “progressive philosophy” have sur- 
vived in the face of the monstrous, catastrophic evils and suf- 
fering that mankind has endured during the twentieth 
century and that should have put an end forever to all “scien- 
tific” attempts at rebuilding the world? Since man appears to 
have reached the ultimate in bestiality this century, we must 
ask the question: what is it that is developing progressively? 
It should be formulated as a question about human nature, 
about the instinct of evil in man and the conditions in which 
it comes to the surface. 

Some part of mankind has certainly been devoting much 
frantic and unhappy thought to this subject. 

But nothing of the kind has happened among the sup- 
porters (at least the majority of them) of the theory of prog- 
ress. Faith, as one would expect, has proved stronger than 
the facts. And mankind, flying into the inferno, is once again 
being soothed by the lullaby of progress. 

Now, however, after all that mankind has experienced, the 
jarring notes in the lullaby can scarcely fail to be heard. We 
are told that nothing irreparable has happened; it is simply 
that “progress” has zigzagged and deviated from the straight 
and narrow way by the will of “evil leaders” and — need one 
say — “imperialists.” But now that the “evil leaders” are 
dead and the imperialists in their last agony, everything will 
be all right ... In any case, why worry? “Marxism, like any 
other science, had the right to make an experiment” — so 
wrote the Russian “liberal” Marxist Roy Medvedev in 1974. 

Some of the defenders of the theory of progress are, how- 



ever, people of great moral sensibility who admit that an 
uninterrupted march toward technological perfection may 
have fatal consequences for mankind. Among them is the 
world-famous, courageous defender of human rights, Acade- 
mician A. Sakharov. How does he propose to avoid this men- 
ace? In his opinion, “conditions for the scientific and 
democratic regulation of economic and social life on a world- 
wide scale” must be created. “Progress must be continually 
and purposefully adapting its forms so as to supply human so- 
ciety’s needs, and above all preserve nature and the earth for 
our descendants.” This assumes that in conditions of democ- 
racy “human society’s needs” will automatically become ra- 
tional, and that these conditions will probably be created 
(since A. Sakharov is an implacable enemy of violence) by 
the “goodwill” of governments, economic necessity, and a 
recognition of impending dangers. Power will no doubt be 
expected to pass from the professional politicians to the sci- 
entists and administrators, who will tailor progress into the 
requisite form. 

But what is the goal of mankind? What requirements must 
progress meet? What guarantees are there that men will dis- 
play reason and goodwill? 

Since A. Sakharov answers none of these questions, his ed- 
ifice takes on an abstract and formal character . 19 

The unsavory history of the twentieth century has convinc- 
ingly demonstrated that even the most progressive of the 
democracies are helpless to control human malice armed 
with the products of progress (as the survivors of Hiroshima 
will testify). At best democracy expresses the opinion of the 
majority, but this by no means proves that the majority is 

What does this leave us with? Science, perhaps? 

This century has reposed, and still reposes, great hopes in 

19. “If progress is the goal,” wrote Herzen, “for whom are we working? 
Who is this Moloch who retreats backward as the laborers approach instead 
of paying them their just due, and has no answer for the masses who are soon 
to perish but the sarcastic promise that after their death all will be well on 
earth? Surely you would not sentence the people of today to the pitiful fete 
of caryatids?” 




science. “Science has become a social institution” is the 
unanimous refrain of all kinds of theorists of modem indus- 
trial society. Science raises the material standard of living, 
science gives us mass production, science puts an end to 
voluntarism in society, science eliminates the erstwhile 
chaos of history and opens up a new era of “planned,” “posi- 
tive” history for mankind, and so forth and so on. The task of 
science is to create a strictly ordered and stable whole out of 
mankind of a universal “scientist” type. This society’s cul- 
ture, permeated with the “scientific spirit,” should be radi- 
cally different from what was previously understood by the 
word “culture.” 

Jean Fourastier, a prominent theorist of the “scientific soci- 
ety,” gives a striking description of this new culture. Accord- 
ing to Fourastier, this society will create a completely 
different concept of the personality, adapted to the spirit of 
modem times. It will be characterized by an antitraditionalist 
cast of mind, the absence of historical memory which would 
hinder a “sterile” perception of reality, antiemotionalism, so- 
briety, matter-of-factness. Mass consumption means a change 
in people’s methods of communication. Henceforth man will 
impinge on his environment “apropos of things, and not ap- 
ropos of questions such as “is the world organized justly?” 
Everything that cannot be measured, everything that cannot 
be computed, in a word, everything qualitative must be ex- 
punged from the new culture. A new moral climate will reign 
in the new consumer society, whose main distinguishing fea- 
ture will be empiricism, corresponding to the empiricism of 
contemporary science. Morality will be loosened and freed 
from dogma; the atmosphere of modernity “carefully elimi- 
nates difficult and painful questions from moral conscious- 
ness.” All this, according to Fourastier, helps “scientific” 
principles to penetrate the minds of the masses and betokens 
the intellectual “liberation” of the personality. But this “lib- 
eration” is not the expansion of freedom in the traditional 
sense, it is its precise opposite. The new “personality,” freed 
of the weight of tradition and the “stereotypes” of former 
life-styles, must correspond as closely as possible to the regu- 



latory function of science, that is, its behavior must be totally 
subordinated to the demands of rationality, optimalism and 
efficiency — in the noneconomic sphere as well as in the 
production process, since no sphere of the new society will 
remain indifferent to production. “The technological envi- 
ronment demands . . . that man should live ever closer to 
the optimum; all deviation from the optimum is now 
regarded as disorder, whereas traditional society was more 
tolerant.” The socioregulatory functions of science are car- 
ried out by the technocracy. “Technocracy is power exer- 
cised on behalf of the demands of . . . growth and size, 
which regards society merely as an aggregate of the social 
resources designed to be utilized in order to achieve the 
goals of growth and reinforcement of the apparatus which 
controls it.” (The utopian socialist Saint-Simon, Fourastier’s 
compatriot, once wrote: “The supreme law of human reason 
subjects everything to itself, rules everything; in its view 
people are only tools”) This projected society would of 
course have to be worldwide and “universal.” The develop- 
ment, concentration and rational distribution of science pos- 
tulate the disintegration of traditional national structures and 
the liquidation of “historic” cultures incompatible with the 
“scientific” cast of mind. The greatest obstacle to the creation 
of the “society of the future” is, in Fourastiers view, the 
“magical, synthesizing and metaphorical way of thought” 
among the mass of the people. “The masses and progress,” 
he says, “are a contradiction in terms.” (Let us recall that the 
people is “something to be overcome.”) 20 
It needs no great penetration to see the resemblance be- 
tween this picture and the ideal toward which contemporary 
Marxism strives — “the socialist reconstruction of the 
world.” The latter merely maintains that this ideal cannot be 
fulfilled under capitalism. From the Marxist viewpoint the 
blueprint of the new “personality” as envisaged by the 
theorists of the “scientific” society must also suffer from one 

20. During the 1960s Fourastier concluded that the twentieth century’s so- 
ciopolitical experimentation and scientific experimentation were manifesta- 
tions of one and the same antitraditionalist spirit of the New Age. 



other vital flaw, namely, the lack of an ideological compo- 
nent, which experience has shown to be of far from negligi- 
ble utility in exercising the “regulatory” function and which, 
happily, does not come into conflict with the “scientific 
spirit,” since, as is well known, Marxist ideology differs from 
“traditional” ideologies precisely in that it is the “only scien- 
tific” one. Correspondingly, society requires the regulator of 
a scientific ideology, which would in effect squeeze out the 
politically naive technocracy. 

The thinly veiled “convergence” of socialism and “tech- 
nologism,” which is now becoming increasingly visible, is 
not fortuitous and rests on their as yet not fully acknowledged 
spiritual affinity. Scylla and Charybdis will always find a 
common language for negotiations, because they both share a 
common nature and — more important — a common enemy. 

What is the name of this enemy? 

The prophets of the new universal society never speak it 
aloud, perhaps because many of them are still vague about it, 
but perhaps also because pronouncing it openly would mean 
that their cause was lost All the same . . . 

As we have seen, the “new society” envisages the disap- 
pearance of the personality in the traditional sense of that 
word, as we explained above. Its place is to be taken by the 
sterile “universal man,” deprived of all qualitative defini- 
tion, a rational atom with rationally planned social behavior. 

We have seen that the “new society” strives to eliminate 
all former “nonoptimal” types of human society — the nation 
first and foremost — that hinder the worldwide regulation of 
the life of “mankind.” (The abolition of religion and “magical 
thought,” as the chief sources of irrational experience, is 
taken for granted.) 

And so that the radiant field of reason shall never be 
darkened by distressing recollections of these dispensable 
things, the “new society” intends to destroy historical mem- 
ory and make history nonexistent. 

We have here a well-thought-out plan for the destruction 
of the hierarchy of the Christian cosmos, a plan to turn man- 
kind into an amorphous mass. 



But an impersonal, unstructured, formless existence is im- 
possible. Deprived of these qualities it destroys itself and 
turns into nonexistence. 

“The spirit of self-destruction and nonexistence” — that is 
the name of the real driving force and regulator of “universal 
progress” without God or man, that is what lies concealed 
beneath the handsome exterior of “universalism,” jeering 
mercilessly at the “universal men” it has tricked. Throughout 
history it has masqueraded under a variety of names, always 
doing its work of destruction; often it has been recognized 
and forced to disguise itself again, for its mighty opponent is 
life itself. In Russia it was recognized and named by Do- 
stoyevsky, but progressive society would not believe him, 
preferring to label his prescience “reaction,” and this dis- 
belief has cost Russia dear. 

It has cost the rest of the world dear too, which has had its 
own prophets; but they, if they were not stoned, were consid- 
ered at best eccentric lunatics and were not taken seriously. 

Now all the prophecies have come true. The edifice that 
took centuries to build on “rational foundations” proved a 
useless and damnable dwelling. The “temple of society” 
(Milyukov’s 21 expression), to the horror of its architects, be- 
came a place of mass human sacrifice, equipped with torture 
chambers to the greater glory of the Future. It emerged that 
this laborious process of construction had its own aims, quite 
different from the ostentatious plans of the constructors, who 
were no more than unconscious, passive tools for the fulfill- 
ment of an aim they knew nothing of — the aim of destroying 
man and the foundations of his human existence. 

That is the real price mankind is obliged to pay — and 
which it has to some extent paid already — for its abstract, 
mechanical unity. This fact is being increasingly clearly re- 
alized by twentieth-century religious, artistic and philo- 
sophical thinkers. However, opportunities for the 
dissemination and assimilation of their arguments are limited 

21. Pavel Milyukov (1859-1943), eminent historian and leader of the main 
democratic political party at the time of the revolution, the Constitutional 
Democrats. Emigrated in 1920. — Trans. 



both from without (by both overt and covert methods of sup- 
pression) and even more so from within, for reasons inherent 
in contemporary man himself. They bog down in the welter 
of preconceived stereotypes which in modem man pass for 
intelligence, stereotypes that are reinforced hourly by all the 
mass media. 

The vast majority of people live in the grip of a tortured yet 
infantile optimism which quickly swings into paroxysms of 
fear, but snaps back to its former condition even more 
quickly. There is no more dangerous mistake than to confuse 
this will-less, thoughtless, irresponsible “optimism” with 
man’s irrepressible thirst for life. An opposite law is at work 
here, as ancient as that of self-preservation. The law of the 
self-destruction of life works in disguise, cunningly, but no 
less destructively for that. 

But it is not an impersonal force, not some mighty Fate that 
rules man independently or against his will. It can act only 
when the personality consents to subject itself to it, only by 
its free choice. Even if many people of our century insist on 
their right not to be personalities, to deny their freedom and 
their consequent responsibility for events, this does not alter 
the situation: it merely shows that they have already suc- 
cumbed to that law, already consented to the final destruc- 
tion of their being. 

Universalism’s rationalist utopia, based on irrational faith 
in progress, is not just a harmless aberration that can be over- 
come by reason. It is the product of the collapse of an in- 
tegrated self-awareness of the personality, the result of its 
renunciation of the true roots of all existence, the symptom of 
a dangerous spiritual sickness which ultimately leads to its 
destruction. The fulfillment of this utopia does not raise the 
standard of existence, as its adherents believe, but lowers it, 
bringing disintegration and finally destruction. 


Attempts under the banner of internationalism to bring this 



destructive abstraction to fruition in history have always led 
to the mutilation and dislocation of living reality and brought 
about equally fearsome reactions. 

We refer to the phenomenon known as nationalism , whose 
origins have not as yet been fully explained. 

It is of course wrong to maintain that nationalism is a reflex 
that arises solely when national life threatens to disintegrate, 
although this is what most of its adherents say. This would 
mean that it has no existence of its own, except as a reflection 
of some other phenomenon, and must disappear when the 
conditions that gave rise to it no longer exist. 

But it is a well enough known historical fact that national- 
ism exists in countries which are under no external or inter- 
nal threat; nobody will have any difficulty in calling 
examples to mind. Threats to national existence and national 
humiliation in any form exacerbate nationalist feelings, but at 
such times their particular nature is practically indistin- 
guishable in the universal national exaltation. 

Only when life returns to normal do its own features be- 
come more or less distinct. 

Nationalism must not be identified with national feeling, 
as so often happens. The latter is its tool, no more. National- 
ism is above all an ideology, which directs the existing elemen- 
tal national instincts into a particular channel. 

This ideology starts from the concept of the exclusive 
value of the tribal characteristics of a given race, and the doc- 
trine of its superiority to all others. 

The same concept, in the form of egotistical national in- 
stincts, also existed of course in the pre-Christian world; it 
contributed to the distortion of national awareness in the 
Christian era; but it became an ideology only when the prin- 
ciples of Christianity started to crumble and be forgotten. 

We discussed in some detail above how Christianity 
regards mankind as single in nature, but plural in personal- 
ity, with every personality having an absolute value. 

Like universalism, nationalism distorts this relationship by 
denying the absoluteness of every national personality; but it 
has its own way of getting there. 



Unlike rationalist or materialist universalism, nationalism 
does its utmost to maintain the concept of a national commu- 
nity that cannot be disrupted by sociological factors. But hav- 
ing lost the suprasociological Christian concept of this 
community as a personality, it is forced to seek it, not above, 
but beneath the sociological surface of national life. And na- 
tionalism finds this community in the nation’s ties of blood 
and kinship, and places this racially naturalistic perception at 
the heart of its ideology. 

All the traits of the national personality as manifested in 
the people’s history, or rather the traits which for whatever 
reason appear most desirable to the proponents of the nation- 
alist philosophy, are held to be derived from this racial factor 
by its very nature. It is scarcely necessary to enlarge on the 
idea that this set of “natural” traits is always historically lim- 
ited and therefore arbitrary. One need only recall the fate of 
the theory, formerly widely held in Russia, that autocracy 
and Orthodoxy were the external attributes of Russian na- 
tionality and together with it formed an indissoluble triune 
principle. Or the once no less popular conviction that serf- 
dom was an inalienable national characteristic of the Russian 
people (this belief of the old Russian nationalists is often met 
with even today, in an updated form, in the West and in Rus- 
sia herself). 

Nationalism confuses the concepts of personality and na- 
ture, ascribing to nature the attributes of personality. As a 
result, the absoluteness of national personalities is trans- 
mogrified into the absoluteness of national natures, that is, 
the single nature of mankind is made to disintegrate into a 
multiplicity of private natures, while the personality is 
forced into an alien role as the means of this disintegration. 

Thus mankind becomes a mechanical aggregation of na- 
tional individuals or units that are totally connected inter- 
nally, sharing no common measure and maintaining purely 
external relations with one another. 

Nationalism is therefore an individualistic, antipersonal 
mode of awareness. A man’s or nation’s awareness of his or 
its personality is always grounded in an awareness of the per- 



sonality of all others, in an acknowledgment of the absolute 
value of any personality. 

The nationalist acknowledges such value only in the nation 
in whose bosom he happened to be bom; he regards other 
nations either as tools or as obstacles to his nation’s fulfill- 
ment of its own ends. Introverted nationalism, therefore, 
knows of no moral principles that might limit its claims, but 
only of an external force that hinders their satisfaction. 

Hence the cult of force of one’s own state that is so remark- 
ably typical for nationalist ideologies. 

Another most important principle of this ideology is con- 
cern for the inner condition of the nation, interpreted in a 
very narrow sense. Insofar as nationalism, as has already 
been pointed out, believes a people to be endowed with its 
particular characteristics by its very nature, it insists on bio- 
logical purity for the preservation of the national type. If a 
nation declines, nationalism tends to blame the decline on an 
adulteration of this “purity”; conversely, if a national renais- 
sance is to be achieved, purity must be reestablished. 

These two symbols — racial purity and state power — are 
for nationalists the essential and sufficient conditions of so- 
called national well-being. All other factors of national life — 
religion, culture, political system — are subordinate to these 
primary conditions, but they are not fundamental to the exis- 
tence of the nation, which is declared to be an end in itself. 

However dissimilar universalism and atheist nationalism 
may appear to be on the surface, however great their hatred 
of one another, they have a great deal in common that does 
not immediately meet the eye. 

These philosophies are distinct from one another not quali- 
tatively, but only quantitatively. Nationalism pursues the 
same goals as universalism, only within the framework of a 
national state. Universalism calls for love of men and man- 
kind as such, nationalism calls for love of the men of a partic- 
ular tribe and the tribe itself as such. 

This similarity of two apparently contradictory phenomena 
was once penetratingly remarked on by the Russian thinker 
Konstantin Leontyev: 



“To love a tribe as a tribe is to exaggerate and deceive. 
. . . The purely tribal concept contains nothing germinal, 
nothing creative; it is nothing but a private perversion of the 
cosmopolitanist idea of universal equality and sterile univer- 
sal happiness. . . . The national principle without religion 
. . . is a principle of slow but sure destruction.” 

We would like to end this essay as we began it. Russia has 
reached some unrecognized historic milestone. Today we all 
have the responsibility of restoring her national awareness, 
which is still fragmented and dispersed. The greatest respon- 
sibility rests with the Christians, who not only can but must 
participate in this essential spiritual work. The humiliated 
and deafened Russian people needs as never before to be- 
come aware of itself as a personality, freely choosing its his- 
torical path. 

Christians today are called upon to assist it to recall its 
spiritual roots in history, but before doing so they need to 
recall it themselves. 

This article is an attempt to remind them of it. As the Rus- 
sian philosopher said: “We were destined to give the world 
vivid examples of the lunacy to which the spirit of present- 
day enlightenment can bring people — but we also have a 
duty to discover the strongest possible antidote to this spirit.” 


The Smatterers 



The fateful peculiarities of the educated stratum of Rus- 
sians before the revolution were thoroughly analyzed in 
Vekhi (Landmarks ) 1 — and indignantly repudiated by the 
entire intelligentsia and by all political parties from the Con- 
stitutional Democrats to the Bolsheviks. The prophetic depth 
of Vekhi failed (as its authors knew it would fail) to arouse 
the sympathies of the Russian reading public; it had no influ- 
ence on the development of the situation in Russia and was 
unable to avert the disastrous events which followed. Before 
long the very title of the book, exploited by another group of 
writers with narrowly political interests and low standards 
(Smena Vekh — New Bearings), was to grow blurred and dim 
and to disappear entirely from the memory of new genera- 
tions of educated Russians, as the book itself inevitably dis- 
appeared from official Soviet libraries. But even after sixty 
years its testimony has not lost its brightness: Vekhi today 
still seems to us to have been a vision of the future. And our 
only cause for rejoicing is that now, after sixty years, the stra- 
1. See Introduction, pages v-vi. — Trans. 



turn of Russian society able to lend its support to the book ap- 
pears to be deepening. 

We read Vekhi today with a dual awareness, for the ulcers 
we are shown seem to belong not just to an era that is past 
history, but in many respects to our own times as well. That 
is why it is almost impossible to begin talking about today’s 
intelligentsia (a problematical term which for the moment, in 
this first part, we shall take as referring to “that mass of peo- 
ple who call themselves by this name,” and an intellec- 
tual — an “intelligent” — “any person who demands that he 
be regarded as such”), without drawing a comparison be- 
tween its present attributes and the conclusions of Vekhi. 
Historical hindsight always offers a better understanding. 

However, being in no way obliged to preserve the compre- 
hensive structure of Vekhi’ s analysis, we shall for the limited 
purposes of the present survey take the liberty of summariz- 
ing and regrouping Vekhi ’ s conclusions into the following 
four categories: 

(1) Faults of the old intelligentsia which were important 
in the context of Russian history but which today have either 
faded away, or still exist in a much weaker form, or have 
become diametrically reversed: 

Clannish, unnatural disengagement from the general life of 
the nation. (Today there is a considerable feeling of involve- 
ment by virtue of the intelligentsia’s employed status.) In- 
tense opposition to the state as a matter of principle. (Today 
it is only in its private thoughts and among small circles of 
friends that the intelligentsia draws a distinction between its 
own interests and those of the state, delights in any failure on 
the part of the state and passively sympathizes with any show 
of resistance; in all else it is the loyal servant of the state.) In- 
dividual moral cowardice in the face of “public opinion,” 
mental mediocrity at the individual level. (Now far out- 
stripped by total cowardice when confronted by the will of 
the state.) Love of egalitarian justice, the social good and the 
material well-being of the people, which paralyzed its love of 
and interest in the truth; the “temptation of the Grand In- 
quisitor”: let the truth perish if people will be the happier for 



it. (Nowadays it has no such broad concerns. Nowadays it is 
“let the truth perish if by paying that price I can preserve 
myself and my family.”) Infatuation with the intelligentsia’s 
general credo; ideological intolerance of any other; hatred as 
a passionate ethical impulse. (All this bursting passion has 
now disappeared.) Fanaticism that made the intelligentsia 
deaf to the voice of life. (Nowadays: accommodation and ad- 
aptation to practical considerations.) There was no word 
more unpopular with the intelligentsia than “humility.” 
(Now they have humbled themselves to the point of servil- 
ity.) Daydreaming, a naive idealism, an inadequate sense of 
reality. (Today they have a sober, utilitarian understanding of 
it.) A nihilistic attitude to labor. (Extinct.) Unfitness for prac- 
tical work. (Fitness.) A strenuous, unanimous atheism which 
uncritically accepted the competence of science to decide 
even matters of religion — once and for all and of course 
negatively; dogmatic idolatry of man and mankind; the re- 
placement of religion by a faith in scientific progress. (The 
atheism has abated in intensity, but is still as widespread 
among the mass of the educated stratum; by now it has grown 
traditional and insipid, though unconditional obeisance is 
still made to scientific progress and the notion that “man is 
the measure of all things.”) Mental inertia; the feebleness of 
autonomous intellectual activity and even hostility to au- 
tonomous spiritual claims. (Today, on the contrary, there are 
some educated people who make up for their withdrawal 
from public passion, faith and action by indulging at their 
leisure, in their closed shell and among their circle of 
friends, in quite intensive intellectual activity, although 
usually with no relevance to the outside world — sometimes 
by way of anonymous, secret appearances in samizdat.) 

In the main Vekhi was critical of the intelligentsia and set 
down those of its vices and inadequacies that were a danger 
to progress in Russia. It contains no separate analysis of the 
virtues of the intelligentsia. Yet looking at Vekhi compara- 
tively from an angle of vision that enables us to take account 
of the qualities of the educated stratum of the present time, 
we find that, among its faults, the authors of Vekhi also list 



features which today cannot be viewed otherwise than as 

(2) Virtues of the prerevolutionary intelligentsia: 

A universal search for an integral world view, a thirst for 
faith (albeit secular), and an urge to subordinate one’s life to 
this faith. (Nothing comparable exists today, only tired cyni- 
cism.) Social compunction, a sense of guilt with regard to the 
people. (Nowadays the opposite is widely felt: that the peo- 
ple is guilty toward the intelligentsia and will not repent.) 
Moral judgments and moral considerations occupy an excep- 
tional position in the soul of the Russian intellectual: all 
thought of himself is egoism; his personal interests and very 
existence must be unconditionally subordinated to service to 
society; puritanism, personal asceticism, total selflessness, 
even abhorrence and fear of personal wealth as a burden and 
a temptation. (None of this relates to us — we are quite the 
reverse!) A fanatical willingness to sacrifice oneself — even an 
active quest for such sacrifice; although this path is trodden 
by only a handful of individuals, it is nevertheless the obliga- 
tory and only worthy ideal aspired to by all. (This is unrecog- 
nizable, this is not us! All that remains in common is the 
word “intelligentsia,” which has survived through force of 

The Russian intelligentsia cannot have been so base if 
Vekhi could apply such lofty criteria in its criticism of it. This 
will strike us even more forcibly when we look at the group 
of characteristics depicted by Vekhi as 

(3) Faults at the time, which in our topsy-turvy world of 
today have the appearance almost of virtues: 

The aim of universal equality, in whose interests the indi- 
vidual must be prepared to curtail his higher needs. The psy- 
chology of heroic ecstasy, reinforced by state persecution; 
parties are popular in proportion to their degree of fearless- 
ness. (Today the persecution is crueler and more systematic, 
and induces depression instead of ecstasy.) A personal sense 
of martyrdom and a compulsion to confess; almost a death 
wish. (The desire now is for self-preservation.) The heroic in- 
tellectual is not content with the modest role of worker and 
dreams of being the savior of mankind or at least of the Rus- 



sian people. Exaltation, an irrational mood of elation, intox- 
ication with struggle. He is convinced that the only course 
open to him is social struggle and the destruction of society 
in its existing form. (Nothing of the kind! The only possible 
course is subservience, sufferance, and the hope of mercy.) 

But we have not lost all of our spiritual heritage. We too 
are recognizably there. 

(4) Faults inherited in the present day : 

Lack of sympathetic interest in the history of our home- 
land, no feeling of blood relationship with its history. Insuf- 
ficient sense of historical reality. This is why the 
intelligentsia lives in expectation of a social miracle (in 
those days they did a great deal to bring it about; now they 
make it less and less possible for the miracle to happen — 
but hope for it all the same!). All that is bad is the result of 
outward disorganization and consequently all that is needed 
are external reforms. Autocracy is responsible for everything 
that is happening, therefore the intellectual is relieved of all 
personal responsibility and personal guilt. An exaggerated 
awareness of their rights. Pretentiousness, posturing, the hy- 
pocrisy of constant recourse to “principles” — to rigid 
abstract arguments. An overweening insistence on the op- 
position between themselves and the “philistines.” Spiritual 
arrogance. The religion of self-deification — the intelligent- 
sia sees its existence as providential for the country. 

This all tallies so perfectly that it needs no comment. 

Let us add a dash of Dostoyevsky (from The Diary of a 

Faintheartedness. A tendency to jump to pessimistic con- 

And many more qualities of the old intelligentsia would 
have survived in the present one if the intelligentsia itself 
had remained in existence. 


The Intelligentsia! How far does it reach, where do its 



boundaries lie? The term is the one that Russians most love 
to argue over, yet it is used in widely differing ways and its 
very vagueness tends to diminish the value of any conclu- 
sions reached. The writers of Vekhi defined the intelligentsia 
not in terms of the level or nature of its members’ education 
but according to their ideology, as if it were a sort of new, 
religionless, humanist order. Clearly they did not regard en- 
gineers or scholars in the mathematical and technical fields 
as part of the intelligentsia. Nor the military intelligentsia. 
Nor the clergy. However, neither did the intelligentsia itself 
at that time, the intelligentsia proper (humanistic, political 
and revolutionary) regard all these people as a part of itself. 
Indeed, Vekhi implies, and in the writings of Vekhi ’ s dis- 
ciples 2 the implication becomes a firmly rooted convic- 
tion, that the greatest Russian writers and philosophers 
— Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Vladimir Solovyov — did not 
belong to the intelligentsia eitherl To the modem reader this 
sounds preposterous, and yet it was so in its day and the gulf 
was quite a deep one. What people prized in Gogol was his 
denunciation of the state system and the ruling classes. But 
the moment he embarked upon the spiritual quest that was 
dearest of all to him he was flayed by the journalistic press 
and excommunicated from progressive society. Tolstoy was 
prized for the same sort of denunciations and also for his ani- 
mosity toward the Church and toward higher philosophy and 
creation. But his insistent moralizing, his summonses to the 
simple life, to nonresistance to evil and to universal goodness 
met with a condescending reception. The “reactionary” Do- 
stoyevsky was altogether detested by the intelligentsia. He 
would have been trampled underfoot and forgotten in Rus- 
sia — and would not be quoted at every turn today — had he 
not suddenly surfaced in the twentieth century to thunderous 
worldwide fame in the respected West. 

Meanwhile, what about all those people who fell outside 
the intelligentsia proper — where were they to be fitted in? 
After all, they had their own characteristic features which 

a. For example: The Russian Religious Renaissance in the Twentieth Cen- 
tury by N. Zernov. 



were sometimes quite different from Vekhi’s specifications. 
The technical intelligentsia, for example, possessed only a 
small proportion of the characteristics outlined in Vekhi. It 
was not at all disengaged from the life of the nation, nor op- 
posed to the state, nor fanatical, nor revolutionary, nor 
guided by hatred, nor possessed of a poor grasp of reality, 
and so forth and so on. 

If we take the etymological definition of the word in- 
telligentsia from its root, intellegere — that is, “to under- 
stand, to know, to think, to have an idea about 
something” — then, clearly, it would embrace a class of peo- 
ple differing in many respects from those who, in Russia at 
the turn of the century, styled themselves thus and were 
viewed as such in Vekhi. 

G. Fedotov 3 wittily suggested that the intelligentsia 
should be defined as a specific group of people “united by 
the idealism of their aims and the unsoundness of their 

V. Dal 4 defined the intelligentsia as “the educated, intel- 
lectually developed part of the population,” but remarked 
thoughtfully that “we have no word for moral education ,” for 
that process of enlightenment which “educates both the 
mind and the heart.” 

There have been attempts to construct a definition of the 
intelligentsia on the basis of its spontaneous creative energy, 
regardless of external circumstances; on the basis of its non- 
imitative mode of thought; and on the basis of its indepen- 
dent spiritual vitality. The chief difficulty dogging all these 
searches has lain not in an inability to formulate a definition, 
or to characterize an actually existing social group, but in a 
disparity of desires: who would we like to see included in the 
name intelligentsia? 

Berdyayev 8 was later to suggest an alternative definition to 

3. G. Fedotov, originally a historian and member of the Russian Social Dem- 
ocratic party, turned to religion after the revolution and in 1925 was allowed 
to go abroad. He subsequently became a professor of theology. — Trans. 

4. The great Russian lexicographer (1801-1872) who composed the first 
comprehensive dictionary of the Russian language. — Trans. 

5. See note on page 55. — Trans. 



that discussed in Vekhi: he saw the intelligentsia as the ag- 
gregate of Russia’s spiritually elect. That is, as a spiritual 
elite, and not a social stratum. 

After the 1905-1907 revolution a gradual polarization of the 
intelligentsia began to take place: the interests of the 
younger, student generation took a new turn, and slowly an 
initially very narrow stratum emerged, attaching a height- 
ened importance to the inner, moral life of man instead of to 
outward social transformations. So the authors of Vekhi were 
not entirely alone in the Russia of their day. But this fragile, 
silent process of the emergence of a new type of intelligent- 
sia (in the wake of which the term itself would have splin- 
tered and acquired a more exact meaning) was fated not to 
reach completion in Russia: it was caught up and crushed in 
the toils of the First World War and then by the dizzy onrush 
of revolution. The word “intelligentsia” was more often on 
the lips of the Russian educated class than many others, but 
in the course of events it never did acquire a definitive 

Since then there has been even less opportunity and time. 
The year 1917 marked the ideological collapse of the revo- 
lutionary-humanist” intelligentsia, as it used to describe it- 
self. For the first time it had to shift from isolated acts of 
terror, from its conceited cliquishness, from its received party 
dogmatism and from its unbridled public criticism of the gov- 
ernment to taking real political action. And fully in accor- 
dance with the melancholy forecasts of the Vekhi writers 
(and, independently, of S. Bulgakov: ® “the intelligentsia, in 
league with our ‘Mongols’ . . . will be the ruin of Russia ), 
the intelligentsia proved incapable of taking that action, 
quailed, and was lost in confusion; its party leaders readily 
abdicated the power and leadership which had seemed so 
desirable from a distance; and power, like a ball of fire, was 
tossed from hand to hand until it came into hands which 
caught it and were sufficiently hardened to withstand its 
white heat (they also, incidentally, belonged to the in- 
telligentsia, but to a special part of it). The intelligentsia had 
6 . See note on page 20. — Trans. 



succeeded in rocking Russia with a cosmic explosion, but 
was unable to handle the debris. (Later, surveying the situa- 
tion from abroad, the intelligentsia formulated excuses for it- 
self: “the people,” it turned out; “was not up to scratch,” 
“the people had disappointed the expectations of the in- 
telligentsia.” But this was precisely what Vekhi had diag- 
nosed: that the intelligentsia was deifying a people whom it 
did not know and from whom it was hopelessly estrangedl 
Ignorance, however, is no excuse. Ignorant of the people and 
its own political capacities, the intelligentsia should have 
been ten times more careful of taking the people’s and its 
own name in vain. 

And just as the poker in the fable, carelessly stepped on in 
the dark hut, struck the simpleton on the forehead with sev- 
enfold force, so the revolution treated the intelligentsia 
which had awakened it. After the tsarist bureaucracy, police, 
nobility and clergy had been dealt with, the next murderous 
blow caught the intelligentsia as early as 1918-1920, while 
the revolution was still young, and brought with it not only 
firing squads and jails, but also cold, hunger, hard labor and 
mocking contempt. The intelligentsia, in its heroic ecstasy, 
was unprepared for all this and (which it would never have 
expected of itself) drifted into the civil war in part under the 
protection of the former tsarist generals, and then into ex- 
ile — not for the first time in some cases, though now the in- 
tellectuals were all mixed up with those same bureaucrats 
whom they had until recently been blowing up with bombs. 

Life abroad, although much harder in its everyday aspects 
than it had been in the old Russia they so detested, did at 
least grant the remnants of the Russian intelligentsia a few 
more decades for excuses, explanations and reflection. The 
larger section of the intelligentsia — the part that remained 
in the Soviet Union — was not destined to enjoy such free- 
dom. Those who survived the civil war no longer had the lat- 
itude of thought and expression with which they had 
previously been pampered. Threatened by the GPU 7 and 

7. GPU: acronym for “State Political Administration” (a euphemism for the 
secret police), introduced in 1922 to replace the older name of Cheka (an ab- 



unemployment, they were obliged by the end of the 1920s 
either to adopt the official ideology and pretend it was sin- 
cerely held and cherished, or else face ruin and dispersal. 
Those were harsh years when the steadfastness of spirit of 
both individuals and the masses was put to the test, a test 
that was applied not only to the intelligentsia, but, for ex- 
ample, to the Russian Church as well. It could even be said 
that the Church, which was utterly decrepit and demoralized 
on the eve of the revolution and possibly one of the chief 
culprits of Russia’s decline, passed the test of the twenties 
with far greater merit: it too had traitors and timeservers in 
its midst (the “reformists”), * * * * * * 8 but it also brought forth a mass 
of martyr-priests whose steadfastness was intensified by per- 
secution and who were driven at bayonet point into the 
camps. Admittedly the Soviet regime was far more merciless 
toward the Church, while the intelligentsia was titillated 
with a stream of temptations: the temptation to understand 
the great Natural Order, to acknowledge the newly arrived 
iron Necessity as the long-awaited Freedom, to acknowledge 
it for themselves today — the thumps of their sincere hearts 
forestalling tomorrow’s kicks from the escort guards or the 
death sentences handed out by the public prosecutors; the 
temptation not to turn sour as part of that “putrefying in- 
telligentsia,” 9 but to submerge their “I” in the Natural 
Order, to gulp down that hot draft of proletarian air, and to 
totter off in pursuit of the Progressive Class as it marched 
away into the radiant fiiture. And for those who caught up, 
there was a second temptation: to apply their intellect to the 

breviation of the Russian for “Extraordinary Commission”). Later in 1922 

the name was changed to OGPU (“United State Political Administration”), 

then in 1934 to NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”), in 

1943 to NKGB (“People’s Commissariat for State Security”), in 1946 to MGB 

(“Ministry of State Security”) and finally in 1953 to KGB (“Committee for 

State Security”), its present designation. — Trans. 

8. A reference to members of the so-called Living Church group, who ad- 
vocated collaboration between the Orthodox Church and the Revolutionary 
Government in the early twenties. They were heavily infiltrated by the se- 
cret police. — Trans. 

9. A phrase of Lenin’s. — Trans. 



Unprecedented Creation of a new society, the like of which 
world history had never seen. How could they fail to fell for 
itl This fervent self-persuasion was the physical salvation of 
many intellectuals and it even seemed to have saved them 
from spiritual collapse, for they gave themselves up to their 
new faith in all sincerity and entirely of their own free will. 
(And for long afterward they towered — in literature, art, and 
the humanities — like veritable tree trunks, and only time’s 
weathering disclosed that they were merely hollow bark and 
had no pith.) There were some who went into this “chase” 
after the Progressive Class hypocritically and laughing at 
themselves, for they had already realized the significance of 
what was happening and simply wanted to save their skins. 
Paradoxically, though (and the process is repeating itself in 
the West today), the majority went into it in complete sincer- 
ity, in a hypnotic trance, having willingly let themselves be 
hypnotized. The intoxication of the rising generation of 
young members of the intelligentsia reinforced the process: 
the truths of triumphant Marxism appeared fiery-winged, and 
for two whole decades, right up to the Second World War, we 
were borne along on those wings. (As if it were an apocry- 
phal story I still recall the autumn of 1941, when the fires of 
deathly war were ablaze and I was trying for the nth time — 
and as unsuccessfully as ever — to fathom the wisdom of 
Das Kapital.) 

In the 1920s and 1930s the composition of the old in- 
telligentsia, as it formerly understood and viewed itself un- 
derwent intensive change and expansion. 

The first natural extension was of the technical intelligent- 
sia (the “specialists”). However, this technical intelligentsia, 
with its firm professional footing, its tangible links with na- 
tional industry, its conscience clear of the sin of complicity in 
the atrocities of revolution, and therefore under no compul- 
sion to weave a passionate justification of the New Order or 
to curry favor with it — this technical intelligentsia displayed 
fer greater spiritual resilience in the twenties than did the 
nonscientific intelligentsia, was in less of a hurry to accept 



the new Ideology as the only possible world view, and, more- 
over, because of the independent nature of its work, was able 
to hold out physically as well. 

But there were other ways in which the old intelligentsia 
expanded — and disintegrated — and these processes were 
confidently controlled by the state. One was the physical in- 
terruption of the intelligentsia’s family traditions: the chil- 
dren of members of the intelligentsia had virtually no right of 
entry to establishments of higher education (only personal 
submission and regeneration through the Komsomol 10 
opened the door). Another was the hasty creation of the 
“workers’ faculty” intelligentsia, poorly trained and hence a 
“red-hot” proletarian-Communist infusion. A third way was 
the mass arrests of “wreckers.” 11 This blow hit the technical 
intelligentsia hardest of all: it crushed a small minority and 
left the rest frightened to death. In what was by then a coun- 
trywide atmosphere of general intimidation, the Shakhty 12 
and “Industrial party” 18 trials, and a few other smaller-scale 
trials, speedily achieved their aim. By the beginning of the 
thirties the technical intelligentsia too had been reduced to a 
state of total submission, and during the thirties it too was 
well schooled in treachery: it learned to vote obediently at 
meetings for whatever penalties were demanded; when one 
brother was annihilated, another brother would dutifully step 
into his shoes, even to take upon himself the leadership of 
the Academy of Sciences; and by this time there was no mili- 
tary order that the Bussian intelligentsia would have dared 
regard as amoral or would not have rushed promptly and 
obsequiously to execute . 14 This blow struck not only at the 

10. See note on page 123. — Trans. 

11. See note on page 117. — Trans. 

12. At the Shakhty trial, held in the summer of 1928, fifty-three engineers 
were accused of “wrecking,” or industrial sabotage, in the Donbas coal- 
field. — Trans. 

13. The “Industrial party” trial was a sequel to the Shakhty trial and the 
climax of the campaign against the engineers. The eight defendants were 
said to have built up a secret organization covering the entire country. All 
eight were shot. — Trans. 

14. This feverish zeal for carrying out the orders of the state was portrayed 
with great frankness in a recent samizdat publication, Tupolevskaya 



old intelligentsia, but soon affected part of the workers’ fac- 
ulty intelligentsia as well: it selected its victims on the prin- 
ciple of their refusal to obey, and in this way bent the 
remaining masses ever more into submission. A fourth pro- 
cess consisted of “normal” Soviet replenishments of the in- 
telligentsia with people who had received their entire 
fourteen years of education under the Soviet regime and 
whose genetic links did not go beyond it. 

In the thirties the intelligentsia underwent yet another ex- 
pansion, this time on a vast scale: by state design and abetted 
by the passivity of the public consciousness, millions of state 
employees joined its ranks, or, to be more accurate, the entire 
intelligentsia was assigned to the class of employees — for 
that was the only way one described or styled oneself at the 
time, whether one was filling in forms or being issued with 
bread-ration cards. All this strict regimentation drove the in- 
telligentsia into the class of functionaries and officialdom, 
and the very word “intelligentsia” was abandoned and used 
almost exclusively as a term of abuse. (Even members of the 
free professions, through their “creative unions,” were re- 
duced to the status of employees. Since then the intelligent- 
sia has continued to exist in this sharply expanded form, in 
this distorted sense and with a reduced level of self- 
awareness. By the time the word “intelligentsia” was partly 
rehabilitated after the war it encompassed many extra mil- 
lions of petit-bourgeois functionaries performing any kind of 
clerical or modest mental work. 

In the prewar years the party and state leaders, the ruling 
class, had insisted on maintaining an entirely separate iden- 
tity from both the “functionaries” (for they had remained 
“workers”) and even more from the putrefied “intelligen- 
tsia,” and as “blue-blooded” proletarians had carefully fenced 
themselves off. After the war, however, particularly in the 
1950s and even more so in the 1960s, when “proletarian” ter- 
minology flagged in its turn and became increasingly “So- 
viet,” and leading members of the intelligentsia on the other 

Sharaga (The Tupolev Special Laboratory ), which reveals that even the most 
prominent persons were not immune to it 



hand were increasingly allowed to occupy high-level posts as 
the technological requirements for all forms of management 
grew, the ruling class also allowed itself to be referred to as 
“the intelligentsia” (a development reflected in the modem 
definition of the intelligentsia in the Large Soviet En- 
cyclopedia), and the “intelligentsia” obediently accepted this 
expansion too. 

It was thought as monstrous before the revolution to call a 
priest an intellectual as it is natural now for the same word to 
be applied to the party agitator and political instructor. 

So, having failed to reach a precise definition of the in- 
telligentsia, it would appear that we no longer need one. 
What is understood by the word in Russia today is the whole 
of the educated stratum, every person who has been to 
school above the seventh grade. 

In Dal’s dictionary the word obrazovat’ as opposed to the 
word prosveshchat’ is defined as meaning: “to give merely 
an outward polish.” 

Although the polish we have acquired is rather third-rate, 
it will be entirely in the spirit of the Russian language and 
will probably convey the right sense if we refer to this “pol- 
ished” or “schooled” stratum, all those who nowadays falsely 
or rashly style themselves “the intelligentsia,” as the obrazo- 
vanshchina — the semieducated estate — the “smatterers.” 


And so it has come to pass, and there is no arguing with 
history: they have driven us among the smatterers and 
drowned us in them (but we let ourselves be driven and 
drowned). There is no arguing with history; but in our hearts 
we protest and disagree: things cannot possibly stay the same 
as they are! Be it because of our memories of the past or our 
hopes for the future — we are different! 

One Altayev (a pseudonym for the author of an article en- 
titled “The Dual Consciousness of the Intelligentsia and 
Pseudoculture” which appeared in No. 97 of the Vestnik 



RSKD ), 18 while acknowledging that the intelligentsia has in- 
creased in numbers and has dissolved in and become one 
with the bureaucracy, still seeks a touchstone for separating 
it from the dissolving mass. He finds it in a “generic feature” 
of the intelligentsia which, he claims, distinguished it before 
the revolution and stil does so today, so that it can be ac- 
cepted as a “definition” of it: the intelligentsia is “a unique 
category of people” which has never been duplicated in any 
other country and which lives with a “sense of its collective 
alienation” from “its own land, its own people and its own 
state regime.” But leaving aside the artificiality of this defini- 
tion (and the not so very “uniqueness” of the situation) it 
could be argued that a sense of alienation from its own peo- 
ple was precisely what the prerevolutionary intelligentsia (as 
defined by Vekhi) did not feel — on the contrary, it was con- 
fident of its plenipotence to speak in the name of the people; 
and the modem intelligentsia is in no respect alienated from 
the modem state: those who feel that way, either in their 
private thoughts or among their immediate circle of friends, 
with a sense of constriction, depression, doom and resigna- 
tion, are not only maintaining the state by their daily activi- 
ties as members of the intelligentsia, but are accepting and 
fulfilling an even more terrible condition laid down by the 
state: participation with their soul in the common, compul- 
sory lie. How much further could they go? One could per- 
haps surrender only one’s body, one’s brain, or one’s 
expertise and still remain “alienated” — but not if one sur- 
renders one’s soul! The old intelligentsia really was opposed 
to the state, and its opposition went as far as an open split 
and even an explosion — for that is what it came to — 
whereas our present-day intelligentsia, as that same Altayev, 
contradicting himself, writes, “has not dared to speak out 
under Soviet power, not only because it has not been al- 
lowed to do so, but first and foremost because it has had 
nothing to say. Communism was its own offspring ... in- 
cluding even the idea of terror. ... It was conscious of no 
principles that were essentially different from the principles 
15. See pages 95 and 96 and note on page 96.— Trans. 



implemented by the Communist regime.” The intelligentsia 
is itself “an accessory to evil and to crime, and this, more 
than anything else, is what prevents it from raising its head.” 
(And eased its entry into the system of lies.) Albeit in a some- 
what unexpected form, the intelligentsia in fact got exactly 
what it had spent many decades trying to achieve — and sub- 
mitted without a struggle. And the one solace it has been 
able to suck on surreptitiously since has been that ‘‘the ideas 
of revolution were good, but were perverted.” And at each 
turn in history it has comforted itself with the hope that the 
regime was beginning to mend, that a change for the better 
was just around the comer and that then, at last, collaboration 
with the authorities would be fully vindicated (Altayev sums 
it up with his brilliantly polished six temptations of the Rus- 
sian intelligentsia: revolutionary, new-directionary, socialis- 
tic, patriotic, “thawistic” and technocratic, all arising 
consecutively and then continuing to coexist at any given 
moment in the present). 

We submitted all right, abasing ourselves utterly and an- 
nihilating ourselves spiritually, so what in all fairness can we 
call ourselves other than smatterers? A melancholy aware- 
ness of our alienation from the state (since the 1940s only), of 
our helpless captivity in the grip of alien paws — this is not a 
generic feature inherited from the past, but the genesis of a 
new protest, the genesis of repentance. And the vast majority 
of the intelligentsia is by now fully aware — some uneasily, 
some indifferently and some arrogantly — of their present 
alienation from the people . 

The problem of how to avoid being engulfed by the smat- 
terers, how to keep a distance from them and preserve the 
concept of an intelligentsia, has been much discussed by 
G. Pomerants (this is not a pseudonym; Pomerants is a real 
person, an orientalist who has published a whole volume of 
philosophical essays and polemical articles in samizdat): 
“the healthiest section of modem society • . . you will find 
no other stratum so progressive.” 16 But he too is thrown into 

16. Most of the quotations from Pomerants on this and following pages are 
taken from his articles “The Man from Nowhere” and “Quadrillion. 



confusion by this ocean of smatterers: “The concept of an in- 
telligentsia is one that is very hard to define. The intelligent- 
sia has not yet settled into a stable entity.” (Not settled into a 
stable entity, a hundred and thirty years after Belinsky and 
Granovsky? 17 No, after the shock of revolution.) He is 
obliged to single out “the best part of the intelligentsia,” 
which is “not even a thin layer but a handful of people; . . . 
only a small core of the intelligentsia is an intelligentsia in 
the proper sense of the word, ... a narrow circle of people 
capable of independently rediscovering cultural treasures 
and values.” He even writes: “belonging to the intelligentsia 
is a process.” He suggests that we cease trying to delineate 
the contours, boundaries and limits of the intelligentsia and 
instead imagine a kind of field of force, as in physics: there is 
a center of radiation (the tiny handful), then a “stratum of the 
animate intelligentsia,” and finally, furthest from the center, 
the “inanimate intelligentsia” (?), a stratum which is, how- 
ever, “more mature than the philistines.” (In earlier variants 
of the same samizdat article Pomerants divided the in- 
telligentsia into the “honorable” and the “dishonorable,” 
which he defined rather strangely as follows: “the honorable 
ones play dirty tricks on their neighbors only when com- 
pelled to, and take no pleasure in it,” while the dishonorable 
ones, so he says, enjoy doing it, and that’s the difference be- 
tween them!) 

True, Pomerants rises to the defense of this multimillion- 
strong class on the borderline between “inanimateness” and 
“philistinism” and writes with great feeling about the hard 
life of schoolteachers, general practitioners and book- 
keepers — “the white-collar laborers.” But his vigorous de- 
fense turns out to be more of an attack on “the people,” 
showing that the man whose job it is to scan the payroll for 

17. Vissarion Belinsky (1811-1848) was Russia’s first great literary critic, a 
supporter of Pushkin, Gogol and Lermontov (often for the wrong reasons) 
and the founder of a vigorous radical school of literary criticism. Timofei 
Granovsky (1813-1855) was a professor of history at Moscow University, a 
leading liberal and the spiritual father of the “Westemizers,” a group of 
thinkers who advocated the introduction of West European political and 
social institutions into Russia. — Trans. 



mistakes has a harder time than the collective farm girl who 
works in a stinking hen house. 

That labor has been distorted and people maimed is cer- 
tainly true. I myself, having spent a fair amount of time work- 
ing as a schoolteacher, can passionately endorse these words 
and add many more categories to the list: construction engi- 
neers, agricultural technicians, agronomists, and so on. 
Schoolteachers are so harassed, hard-pressed and degraded, 
and live in such penury, that they have no time, scope or 
freedom left to form their own opinions about anything or 
even to seek and imbibe any spiritual food that has not al- 
ready been contaminated. And it is not because of their na- 
ture or the poorness of their education that these benighted 
provincial masses lag so far behind in “animateness” in com- 
parison with the privileged university intellectuals of the 
capital, but precisely because of their penury and social de- 

But none of this alters the hopeless picture of a bloated 
army of smatterers to which the standard certificate of entry 
is the most average sort of schooling. 


It is all very well to charge the working class at the present 
time with being excessively law-abiding, uninterested in the 
spiritual life, immersed in philistinism and totally preoc- 
cupied with material concerns — getting an apartment, buy- 
ing tasteless furniture (the only kind in the shops), playing 
cards and dominoes or watching television and getting 
drunk — but have the smatterers, even in the capital, risen 
all that much higher? Dearer furniture, higher-quality con- 
certs, and cognac instead of vodka? But it watches the same 
hockey matches on television. On the fringes of smatterdom 
an obsession with wage-levels may be essential to survival, 
but at its resplendent center (in sixteen republican capitals 
and a handful of closed towns) it is disgusting to see all ideas 
and convictions subordinated to the mercenary pursuit of 



bigger and better salaries, titles, positions, apartments, villas, 
cars (Pomerants: “A dinner service is compensation for lost 
nerves”), and — even more — trips abroadl (Wouldn’t this 
have amazed the prerevolutionary intelligentsia! It needs ex- 
plaining: new impressions, a gay time, the good life, an ex- 
pense account in foreign currency, the chance to buy gaudy 
rags. . . . For this reason I think even the sorriest member of 
the prerevolutionary intelligentsia would refuse to shake 
hands with the most illustrious of our metropolitan smat- 
terers today.) But what distinguishes the mentality of the 
Moscow smatterers more than anything else is their greed for 
awards, prizes and titles for beyond the reach of the working 
class or the provincial smatterers — the prize money is 
higher, and what resounding titles they are: “People’s Artist 
(Actor, etc.) . . . Meritorious Practitioner . . . Laureate . . .”! 
For all this people are not ashamed to toe the line punctili- 
ously, break off all unapproved friendships, carry out all the 
wishes of their superiors and condemn any one of their col- 
leagues either in writing or from a public platform, or simply 
by refusing to shake his hand, if the party committee orders 
them to. 

If all these are the qualities of the intelligentsia, who are 
the philistines? 

People whose names we used to read not so long ago on 
our cinema screens and who passed for members of the in- 
telligentsia if anyone did, who recently left this country for 
good, saw no shame in taking eighteenth-century escritoires 
to pieces (the export of antiques is prohibited), nailing the 
pieces to some ordinary planks of wood to make grotesque 
“furniture,” and exporting them in that form. Can one still 
bring oneself to utter the word “intelligentsia”? It is only a 
customs regulation that prevents icons older than the seven- 
teenth century from leaving the country. Whole exhibitions 
of later icons are at this very moment being staged in 
Europe — and not only the state has been selling 
abroad. • • • 

Everybody who lives in our country pays dues for the 
maintenance of the obligatory ideological lie. But for the 



working class, and all the more so for the peasantry, the dues 
are minimal, especially now that the financial loans which 
used to be extorted annually have been abolished (it was the 
fake voluntariness of these loans that was so perfidious and 
so distressing: the money could have been appropriated by 
some other means); all they now have to do is vote every so 
often at some general meeting where absenteeism is not 
checked with particular thoroughness. Our state bailiffs and 
ideological inculcators, on the other hand, sincerely believe 
in their Ideology, many of them having devoted themselves 
to it out of long years of inertia or ignorance, or because of 
man’s psychological quirk of liking to have a philosophy of 
life that matches his basic work. 

But what of our central smatterers? Perfectly well aware of 
the shabbiness and flabbiness of the party lie and ridiculing 
it among themselves, they yet cynically repeat the lie with 
their very next breath, issuing “wrathful” protests and news- 
paper articles in ringing, rhetorical tones, and expanding and 
reinforcing it by their eloquence and style 1 Where did Or- 
well light upon his doublethink, what was his model if not 
the Soviet intelligentsia of the 1930s and 1940s? And since 
that time this doublethink has been worked up to perfection 
and become a permanent part of our lives. 

Oh, we era \e freedom, we denounce (in a whisper) anyone 
who ventures to doubt the desirability and necessity of total 
freedom in our country. (Meaning, in all probability, not free- 
dom for everyone but certainly for the central smatterers. 
Pomerants, in a letter to the twenty-third Party Congress, 
proposes setting up an association of the “nucleus of the in- 
telligentsia,” which would have a free press at its disposal 
and be a theoretical center giving advice to the administra- 
tive and party centers.) But we are waiting for this freedom to 
fall into our lap like some unexpected miracle, without any 
effort on our part, while we ourselves do nothing to win this 
freedom. Never mind the old traditions of supporting people 
in political trouble, feeding the fugitive, sheltering the pass- 
less or the homeless (we might lose our state-controlled 
jobs) — the central smatterers labor day after day, conscien- 



tiously and sometimes even with talent, to strengthen our 
common prison. And even for this they will not allow them- 
selves to be blamed! A multitude of excuses has been 
primed, pondered and prepared. Tripping up a colleague or 
publishing lies in a newspaper statement is resourcefully jus- 
tified by the perpetrator and unanimously accepted by his as- 
sociates: If I (he) hadn’t done it, they would have sacked me 
(him) from my (his) job and appointed somebody worse! So 
in order to maintain the principle of what is good and for the 
benefit of all, it is natural that every day you will find your- 
self obliged to harm the few (“honorable men play dirty 
tricks on their neighbors only when they have to”). But the 
few are themselves guilty: why did they flaunt themselves so 
indiscreetly in front of the bosses, without a thought for the 
collective? Or why did they hide their questionnaires from 
the personnel department and thus lay the entire collective 
open to attack? Chelnov (in the Vestnik RSKD, No. 97) wit- 
tily describes the intelligentsia’s position as standing crook- 
edly — “from which position the vertical seems a ridiculous 

But the chief justifying argument is: childrenl In the free 
of this argument everyone falls silent: for who has the right to 
sacrifice the material welfare of his children for the sake of an 
abstract principle of truth?! That the moral health of their 
children is more precious than their careers does not even 
enter the parents’ heads, so impoverished have they them- 
selves become. And it is reasonable that their children 
should grow up the same: pragmatists right from their school 
days, first-year students already resigned to the lie of the po- 
litical education class, already shrewdly weighing their most 
profitable way into the competitive world of science. Theirs 
is a generation that has experienced no real persecution, but 
how cautious it is! And those few youths — the hope of Rus- 
sia — who turn and look truth in the face are usually cursed 
and even persecuted by their infuriated, affluent parents. 

And you cannot excuse the central smatterers, as you could 
the peasants in former times, by saying that they were scat- 
tered about the provinces, knew nothing of events in general 



and were suppressed on the local level. Throughout die 
years of Soviet power the intelligentsia has been well 
enough informed, has known what was going on in the 
world, and could have known what was going on in its own 
country, but it looked away and feebly surrendered in every 
organization and every office, indifferent to the common 
cause. For decade after decade, of course, it has been held in 
an unprecedented stranglehold (people in the West will 
never be able to imagine it until their turn comes). People of 
dynamic initiative, responsive to all forms of public and pri- 
vate assistance, have been stifled by oppression and fear, and 
public assistance itself has been soiled by a hypocritical 
state-run imitation. Finally, they have been placed in a situa- 
tion where there appears to be no third choice: if a colleague 
is being hounded no one dares to remain neutral — at the 
slightest evasion he himself will be hounded too. But there is 
still a way out for people, even in this situation, and that is to 
let themselves be hounded! Let my children grow up on a 
crust of bread, so long as they are honestl If the intelligentsia 
were like this, it would be invincible. 

There is also a special category of distinguished people 
whose names have become so firmly and inviolably es- 
tablished and who are so protectively cloaked in national and 
sometimes international fame that, in the post-Stalin period 
at least, they are well beyond the reach of the police, which 
is plain as plain could be from both near and far; nor do they 
fear need — they’ve put plenty aside. Could not they resur- 
rect the honor and independence of the Russian intelligen- 
tsia? Could not they speak out in defense of the persecuted, 
in defense of freedom, against rank injustices and the squalid 
lies that are foisted upon us? Two hundred such men (and 
they number half a thousand altogether) by coming forward 
and taking a united stand would purify the public air in our 
country and all but transform our whole lifel The prerevolu- 
tionary intelligentsia did this in their thousands, without 
waiting for the protection of fame. But can we find as many as 
ten among our smatterers? The rest feel no such needl (Even 
a person whose father was shot thinks nothing of it, swallows 


die feet.) And what shall we say about our prominent men at 
the top? Are they any better than the smatterers? 

In Stalin’s day, if you refiised to sign some newspaper 
smear or denunciation, or to call for the death or imprison- 
ment of your comrade, you really might have been threat- 
ened with death or imprisonment yourself. But today — what 
threat today induces our silver-haired and eminent elders to 
take up their pens, obsequiously asking "where?,” and sign 
some vile nonsense concocted by a third person about Sak- 
harov? Only their own worthlessness. What force impels a 
great twentieth-century composer to become the pitiful pup- 
pet of third-rate bureaucrats from the Ministry of Culture and 
at their bidding sign any contemptible piece of paper that is 
pushed at him, defending whoever they tell him to abroad 
and hounding whoever they want him to at home? (The com- 
poser’s soul has come into direct and intimate contact — with 
no screen in between — with the dark, destructive soul of the 
twentieth century. He has gripped — no, it has gripped him 
with such piercing authenticity that when — if! — mankind 
enters upon a more enlightened age, our descendants will 
hear from Shostakovich’s music how we were in the devil’s 
clutches, utterly in its possession, and that we found beauty 
in those clutches and in that infernal breathing.) 

Was the behavior of the great Russian scholars in the past 
ever so wretched? Or the great Russian artists? Their tradi- 
tion has been broken: we are the smatterers. 

What is triply shameful is that now it is not fear of persecu- 
tion, but devious calculations of vanity, self-interest, personal 
welfare and tranquillity that make the “Moscow stars” among 
the smatterers and the middle stratum of “moderates” so 
pliant Lydia Chukovskaya 18 is right: the time has come to 
count some people out of the intelligentsia. And if that 
doesn’t mean all these, then the meaning of the word has 
been irretrievably lost 

18. Lydia Chukovskaya, the daughter of the well-known children’s writer 
Komei Chukovsky (1882-1969), is one of the Soviet Union’s leading dis- 
sident writers and the author of two short novels, The Deserted House and 
Going Under. She was expelled from the Writers’ Union in January 
1974.— Trans. 



Oh, there have been fearless people 1 Fearless enough to 
speak up for an old building that was being demolished (as 
long as it wasn’t a cathedral), and even the whole Lake Bai- 
kal area. 18 And we must be thankful for that, of course. One 
of the contributors to the present anthology was to have been 
an exceptionally distinguished person with a string of ranks 
and titles to his name. In private conversations his heart 
bleeds for the irrevocable ruin that has befallen the Russian 
people. He knows our history and our culture through and 
through. But — he declined: What’s the use P Nothing will 
come of it . . .the usual good excuse of the smatterers. 

We have got what we deserve. So low have we sunk. 

When they jerked the string from on top and said we could 
be a little bolder (1956, 1962) we straightened our numbed 
spines just a trifle. When they jerked “quiet!” (1957, 1963) 
we subsided at once. There was also the spontaneous occur- 
rence of 1967-1968, when samizdat came pouring out like a 
spring flood, more and more names appeared, new names 
signed protests and it seemed that only a little more was 
needed, only a tiny bit more, and we should begin to 
breathe. And did it take all that much to crush us? Fifty or so 
of the most audacious people were deprived of work in their 
professions. A few were expelled from the party, a few from 
the unions, and eighty or so protest signers were summoned 
for discussions with their party committee. And they came 
away from those “discussions” pale and crestfallen. 

And the smatterers took flight, dropping in their haste their 
most important discovery, the very condition of continued ex- 
istence, rebirth and thought — samizdat. Was it so long ago 
since the smatterers had been in hot pursuit of the latest 
items of samizdat, begging for extra copies to be typed, start- 
ing to collect samizdat libraries or sending samizdat to the 
provinces? Now they began to bum those libraries and 
cherish the virginity of their typewriters, only occasionally 
borrowing a forbidden leaflet in some dark passageway, 

19. A reference to the extensive industrial pollution of Lake Baikal and its 
surroundings and to recent protests on environmental grounds. — Trans. 


snatching a quick look at it and returning it at once as if they 
had burned their fingers. 

Yes, in the course of those persecutions a definite core of 
the intelligentsia did take shape and emerge into view, con- 
sisting of people who continued to risk their necks and make 
sacrifices — by openly or in wordless secrecy keeping dan- 
gerous materials, by fearlessly helping prisoners or by paying 
with their own freedom. 

But there was another “core” that also came to light and 
discovered an ingenious alternative: to flee the country! 
Thereby preserving their own unique individuality Cover 
there I shall be able to develop Russian culture in peace and 
quiet”). Or saving those whom they had left behind (“from 
over there we shall be better able to defend your rights 
here”). Or, finally, saving their children, who were more pre- 
cious than the children of the rest of their compatriots. 

Such was the “core of the Russian intelligentsia” that came 
to light and that could exist even without Russia. But all this 
would be forgiven us, would arouse only sympathy — our 
downtrodden degradation and our subservience to the 
lie — if we meekly confessed to our infirmity, our attachment 
to material prosperity, our spiritual unpreparedness for trials 
too severe for us to bear: we are the victims of history that 
happened before our time, we were bom into it, and have 
tasted our fair share of it, and here we are, floundering and 
not knowing how to escape from it. 

But no! We contrive in this situation to find tortuous ex- 
cuses of stunning sublimity as to why we should “become 
spiritually aware of ourselves without abandoning our scien- 
tific research institutes” (Pomerants) — as if “becoming spiri- 
tually aware” were a matter of cozy reflection, not of harsh 
ordeal and merciless trial. We have not renounced our arro- 
gance in the least. We insist on the noble, inherited title of 
intelligentsia, on the right to be the supreme arbiters of every 
spirtual manifestation in our own country and of mankind: to 
make peremptory judgments about social theories, trends, 
movements, historical currents and the activities of promi- 



nent individuals from the safety of our burrows. Even as we 
put on our coats in the lobbies of our institutes we grow a 
head taller, and by the evening over the tea table we are al- 
ready pronouncing the supreme judgment and deciding 
which actions and which of their perpetrators the “in- 
telligentsia will forgive” or “not forgive.” 

Observing the pitiful way the central smatterers actually 
behave in the service of the Soviet state, it is impossible to 
believe the high historical pedestal they see themselves as 
occupying — each placing himself, his friends and his col- 
leagues on that pedestal. The increasingly narrow specializa- 
tion of professional disciplines, which enables semi- 
ignoramuses to become doctors of science, does not bother 
the smatterer in the slightest. 

So powerful is the effect upon all educated people of the 
smatterers' high opinion of themselves that even Altayev, 
that stubborn exposer of the smatterers, bows to tradition in 
the interval between his exposures: “Today [our] intelligen- 
tsia manifestly holds the fate of Russia, and with it that of the 
whole world, in its hands”! Bitter laughter. . . . On the 
strength of Russian experience and in the face of the confu- 
sion in the West at the present time, it could — but its hands 
are feeble and its heart failing. 

In 1969 this surge of self-satisfaction on the part of the sci- 
entific and technical smatterers spilled out into samizdat 
with an article by Semyon Telegin (pseudonymous, of 
course), entitled “What Is to Be Done?” The tone is that of a 
breezy, pushing know-it-all, quick at side associations and 
with a familiar, low wit (Russisch kulturisch ), at one moment 
showing his contempt for the population with which he is 
obliged to share the same plot of dry land (“the human pig- 
sty”), at another indulging in rhetorical flourishes: “But has 
my reader ever thought . . . ?” The author takes his “creative 
principle, source of ethics and humanism” from the apes, and 
believes that the best way out for the disillusioned is “the 
football stadium” and the worst “to join a sect.” 

What is important, though, is not so much the actual author 
as the circle of people who share his views and whom he 



plainly recommends as “progressive intellectuals” (party 
members, for they sit about at party meetings and are in 
charge of “individual work areas”): “We are the flower of 
thinking Russia,” who “create a philosophical environment 
of our own in which we can live without becoming entangled 
in contradictions. . . . Imagine a class of highly educated 
people armed with the ideas of modem science, able, in- 
dependent, fearless thinkers, altogether accustomed to think 
and fond of thinking, but not plowing the land.” 

Nor does Telegin hide these other peculiar features of his 
associates: “We are people accustomed to think one thing, 
say another and do a third. . . . The total moral demobiliza- 
tion has affected us too.” What he has in mind is triplicity, a 
triple code of morals, “for oneself, for society, and for the 
state.” But is this a sin? Telegin cheerfully maintains that 
“herein lies our victory ”1 What was that? Ah, the regime 
would like us to think as subserviently as we speak and 
work, but we think — fearlessly! “We have asserted our 
inner freedom”! (Astonishing: if secretly making a gesture of 
contempt in your pocket is inner freedom, what is inner slav- 
ery? We are inclined to define inner freedom as the ability 
both to think and act untrammeled by external fetters, and 
outward freedom as a situation when there are no fetters at 

It is precisely in Telegin’s article that the “flower of think- 
ing Russia” has comprehensively and very openly expressed 
itself. Let us familiarize ourselves with its contents — it will 
be an enriching experience. 

“Under a regime of oppression,” claims Telegin, a new 
culture has arisen, “a system of relationships and a system of 
thinking”; it is “a colossus on two legs — art and science.” In 
the artistic sphere there are the guitarist-balladeers and in- 
dependent samizdat literature. In the field of science there is 
“the powerful methodology of physics” and stemming from it 
“an entire philosophy of life,” and beyond this “there are 
dozens of outgrowths and local subcultures sprouting in the 
drawing offices of planning departments, the corridors of re- 
search institutes and the foyers of institutes of the Academy 



of Sciences. . . . There is scope for creative people here, and 
there are plenty of them. . . . Science cannot be curbed by 
any authority” (oh, yeah). And — it will be possible to “apply 
the methodology of physics to the subtleties of ethics,” and 
“This subterranean culture will act like yeast on the tribe of 
new, whole people, giants, who will spring up and to whom 
our fears will seem ridiculous.” 

There follows a daring plan explaining how this culture is 
to be used for our salvation. The crux of the matter is that “to 
speak out openly against the conditions of our existence . . . 
is not always the best way. . . . One evil will not cure an- 
other . . . secret conspiracies and new parties” will not help 
and are not wanted, nor must there be any calls for revolu- 

With the last conclusion we heartily agree, although the 
author bases his argument on erroneous premises: he at- 
tributes the fall of autocracy solely to society’s rejection of 
the idea of the bureaucratic state and not to any revolutionary 
activity. This is not true, and no parallel can be drawn here: 
there was very real revolutionary activity, autocracy was not 
defended one-tenth as fiercely as it should have been and the 
intelligentsia was determined to sacrifice itself. But we do 
agree with his practical conclusion: that we abandon the idea 
of revolution, and “not make plans for the creation of a new 
mass party of the Leninist type.” 

What, then, are his proposals? They are as follows: “ini- 
tially no great sacrifices are envisaged” (which is very reas- 
suring for the smatterers). Stage 1: “nonacceptance of the 
oppressors’ culture” and “building a culture” of our own (to 
start with, by reading samizdat and displaying a high level of 
understanding in the smoking lounges of research institutes). 
Stage 2 : making “efforts to disseminate this culture among 
the people,” and even “actively bringing this culture to the 
people” (the methodology of physics? or the guitar songs?), 
“inculcating into the people an understanding of what we 
ourselves have come to understand,” for which we need to 
seek “roundabout methods.” This approach “will require 
first and foremost not courage [for the nth time this soul- 



soothing balm!] but the gift of persuasion, clarification, the 
ability to awaken the attention of the people and hold it over 
a long period of time without attracting the attention of the 
authorities. . . . Russia needs not only platforms and fanatics 
but also . . . vehement critics and skilled missionaries of the 
new culture. . . . After all, we find a common language with 
the people when we talk about football and fishing — we 
need to find concrete ways of going to the people. . . . And 
surely, with our philosophy [etc., etc.] ... we shall be able 
to cope with a problem that even semi-illiterate preachers of 
religion have tackled successfully?”! (Alas, alas, this is where 
the smatterers betray their arrogance and shortsightedness, 
for it is not a question of literacy, but of spiritual power.) 

We are quoting at such length because these are the views 
not of Telegin alone but of all the self-assured ideologists of 
our central smatterers. No matter which one we listen to, this 
is all we ever hear: a program of cautious enlightenment 1 An 
article by Chelnov (in the Vestnik RSKD, No. 97) is entitled, 
exactly like Telegin’s, though not by any design, “What Is to 
Be Done?” His answer is: “create secret Christian fraterni- 
ties,” and he relies on a millennial improvement in morals. 
L. Ventsov’s “Think!” (in Vestnik , No. 99), also by no design, 
offers the same remedy as Telegin! For a brief period a pro- 
fusion of journals and more journals sprang up in samizdat: 
Ray of Freedom, The Sower, Free Thought, Democrat, all of 
them strictly clandestine, of course, and all of them offering 
identical advice: just don’t reveal your face, just don’t break 
the rule of secrecy, but slowly spread a correct understanding 
among the people. . . . What is this? The same thousand- 
year-old pastoral that has been outdistanced a hundredfold 
by the events of the space age. It seemed so easy: philos- 
ophize in one’s burrow, hand the results over to samizdat, 
and the rest will happen automatically! 

But it won’t. 

In the warm, well-lit, well-equipped rooms of their re- 
search institutes the “pure” scientists and technicians, while 
roundly condemning their brothers in the arts for “toadying 
to the regime,” have become accustomed to overlooking their 



own innocuous service to the state; but that service is no less 
terrible, and history will make them answer no less harshly 
for it. Suppose that tomorrow we were to lose one-half of all 
our research institutes, the most important and secret ones, 
would science be brought to a halt? No, but imperialism 
would. “The creation of an antitotalitarian culture can also 
lead to material freedom,” affirms Telegin, but how are we to 
understand this: Scientists (and now that science has become 
an industry they are essentially qualified industrial workers) 
spend their whole working day turning out material appur- 
tenances — if not of “culture” then of civilization — that is, 
materially reinforcing the lie, and everywhere voting, agree- 
ing with and repeating whatever they are told — is this the 
kind of culture that will save us all? 

In the years since Telegin’s article there have been many 
public opportunities for the tribe of giants at least to shrug 
their shoulders or to take just one breath, but no! They 
signed what was required of them against Dubdek, against 
Sakharov, against whoever they were ordered to, and making 
rude signs in their pockets they scuttled off to their smoking 
lounges to develop a “professional subculture” and hammer 
out a “powerful methodology.” 

Do psychiatrists at the Serbsky Institute 20 perhaps live by 
the same “triple moral code” and pride themselves on their 
“inner freedom”? And sundry procurators and judges in high 
places? For there are people of refined intellect among them, 
in no way inferior to Telegin’s giants. 

This smug declaration is as deceptive as it is confused in 
that it comes very close to the truth — which warms the read- 
er’s heart — and then at the critical danger point veers 
abruptly onto another tack. “Ohne uns /” exclaims Telegin. 
Right. “Refuse to accept the oppressors’ culture!” Also right. 
But when, where, and in what respects? Not in the cloak- 
room after a meeting, but at the meeting — by refusing to 
repeat what we do not believe, by refusing to vote against 
our will! And in that little office, by refusing to sign anything 

20. One of the most notorious of the psychiatric hospitals where political 
dissidents are detained. — Trans. 



that we did not compose in all good conscience ourselves. 
This has nothing to do with rejecting some sort of “culture." 
Nobody is foisting “culture” on us, it is lies they are foisting 
upon us and it is only lies that we must not accept, but at 
once, right then and right there where we are being asked to 
accept them, instead of venting our indignation later in the 
evening over the tea table at home. We must reject lies on 
the spot, without thinking about the consequences for our 
salaries, our families and our leisure for spreading the “new 
culture.” We must reject lies without worrying whether 
others will follow in our footsteps and without looking 
around to see if the rest of the population is catching the 

And it is because the answer is so clear and reduces to 
such a simple, straightforward form that the anonymous ide- 
ologist of the arrogant, shallow and sterile tribe of giants 
evades it with all the oratorical brilliance he can muster. 21 

So for the time being let those who feel unable to take the 
risk spare us in our filth and baseness their witty arguments, 
exposures and explanations of the origins of our Russian 


And how do the central smatterers see their place in the 
country in relation to their own people? Whoever supposes 
that they repent of their lackey’s role is mistaken. Even Pom- 
erants, who represents quite a different group of the Moscow 
smatterers — unestablished, nonmanagerial, non-party mem- 
bers, working in the humanities — takes care to extol “the 
Leninist cultural revolution” (which destroyed the old modes 
of production, a very valuable service I) and to defend the 
form of government which existed from 1917 to 1922 (“a tem- 
porary dictatorship within the framework of democracy”). 

ai. Samizdat versions differ. And later Telegin altered the ending, adding: 
“The first steps are boycott, nonparticipation and indifference.” Indifference 
is nothing new; but as for nonparticipation — in what? 



And “the bourgeois, of course, fully deserved the despotic 
treatment he received at the hands of the victorious revolu- 
tionaries. His cowardice and his servility are the breeding 
ground of despots.” His servility, not oursl But in what re- 
spect is the behavior of the central smatterers more com- 
mendable than that of the so-called bourgeois? 

Neither those who sing the praises of the smatterers nor 
their detractors voice as much as a suggestion of any guilt 
toward the people for the past or present, the guilt which so 
tormented the prerevolutionary intelligentsia. In this respect 
they are unanimous, all of them, even Altayev: “It might not 
be such a bad thing if the people themselves were to become 
aware of their guilt toward the intelligentsia.” 

All the comparisons that the central smatterers draw be- 
tween themselves and the people are in their own favor. 
Pomerants: “The intelligentsia is a measure of social 
forces — progressive and reactionary. When set against the 
intelligentsia the entire people coalesces into a reactionary 
mass ” (emphasis added). “It is that section of the educated 
stratum of society in which spiritual development takes 
place, old values are destroyed and new ones arise, and in 
which one of the steps from animal to God is taken. . . . The 
intelligentsia is precisely that which it has sought in others, 
in the people, in the proletariat, and so on: the ferment that 
sets history in motion.” Furthermore: “Love of one’s people 
is far more dangerous [than love of animals]: there is no 
threshold here to prevent one from going down on all fours.” 
And simply: “ The backbone of a new people is being formed 
here ... a new something will replace the people . . . the 
people involved in creative brainwork will become the cho- 
sen people of the twentieth century” II I 

Telegin says the same thing, and so does Gorsky (yet an- 
other pseudonym, writing in Vestnik, No. 97): “The road to 
supreme values lies elsewhere than in fusion with the peo- 
ple.” At the opposite pole from the opinion of their foolish 
predecessors in the intelligentsia. 

Or take religion. Pomerants: “The peasants’ understanding 
of religion is imperfect,” that is, philosophically crude: “You 



can call it God, the Absolute, the Void ... I have no particu- 
lar preference for any of these words.” Simple, sincere devo- 
tion to the faith, to its precepts and even its rights — ugh, 
their understanding is imperfect, just as they don’t under- 
stand agronomy. (With peasant agronomy there was grain 
enough and the soil wasn’t exhausted, but now that things 
are scientifically done we shall soon be without soil al- 
together. But then Pomerants’s entire argument is no doubt 
directed against the pochvenniki, or “men of the soil,” 22 and 
his ideal is “people of the air, who have lost all their roots in 
everyday existence.”) On the other hand “the intellectuals 
are today seeking God. Religion has ceased to be the mark of 
the people. It has become the mark of the elite.” The same 
point is made by Gorsky: “To confuse a return to the Church 
with going to the people is a dangerous prejudice.” 

One of them is writing in Moscow samizdat, the others in a 
Paris journal. It is unlikely that they know each other, but 
what unity 1 One cannot pick a single hole in it. Which means 
that it is not just the invention of individuals, but a trend. 

But what do we recommend for the people, then? Abso- 
lutely nothing. There is no people, this is something else 
about which they all agree: “Culture, like a snake, simply 
sheds its skin, and the old skin, the people, lies lifeless in the 
dust.” “The patriarchal virtues are irretrievably lost to man- 
kind,” “the muzhik can be resurrected only in opera houses.” 
“We are not surrounded by the people. The peasantry in the 
developed countries is becoming too small to surround us,” 
“peasant nations are hungry nations, and nations whose peas- 
antry has vanished are nations in which famine has disap- 
peared.” (This was before we ran into a technological dead 

But if this is the smatterers’ interpretation of the general 
situation of peoples, how do they view the future of nations? 
This has been thought out too. Pomerants: “Nations are local 
cultures and will gradually disappear.” And “the position of 

22. The name of a group of writers and thinkers in the mid-nineteenth cen- 
tury who advocated a kind of Christian naturalism, which was to be achieved 
through a study of organic historical, social and spiritual forces inherent in 
the Russian people. — Trans. 



the intelligentsia is always to be halfway between. . . . Spiri- 
tually all intellectuals nowadays belong to a diaspora. No- 
where are we complete strangers. And nowhere do we feel 
quite at home.” 

It is on this spirit of internationalism and cosmopolitanism 
that our entire generation was reared. And (leaving aside — if 
we can leave it aside! — the nationalities policy as it was in 
practice in the 1920s) there is great spiritual nobility and 
beauty in it, and mankind is probably destined one day to 
rise to those noble heights. This view preponderates widely 
in European society too at the present time. In West Ger- 
many it is creating a mood in which people are not particu- 
larly concerned about the reunification of Germany, and see 
no mystical imperatives in German national unity. In Great 
Britain, which still clings to the illusion of a mythical British 
Commonwealth and where society is keenly indignant over 
the slighest racial discrimination, it has led to the country’s 
being inundated with Asians and West Indians who are to- 
tally indifferent to the English land, its culture and tradi- 
tions, and are simply seeking to latch onto a ready-made high 
standard of living. Is this such a good thing? It is not our 
business to judge from a distance. But despite the prognos- 
tications, imprecations and denunciations, this has turned out 
everywhere to be the century in which nation after nation 
has come to life, become aware of its existence and gathered 
itself up. And the miraculous birth and consolidation of Israel 
after two thousand years of dispersal is only the most striking 
of a multitude of examples. 

One would think that our authors would be aware of this, 
yet they ignore it in their arguments about Russia. Gorsky is 
irritated by “unthinking patriotism,” by “instinctive depen- 
dence on innate and atavistic elements,” and would deny us 
the right simply to love the land of our birth irrationally and 
unpremeditatedly, demanding instead that each of us rise to 
“an act of spiritual self-determination” and only thus choose 
a homeland for ourselves. Among the unifying features of a 
nation he makes no mention of a native languagel (which 
makes him a worse theoretician even than Stalin), nor of a 



sense of the history of the country. He acknowledges, as a 
merely subsidiary factor, “an ethical and territorial commu- 
nity,” but sees religion as the basis of national unity (this is 
true, but the religion may extend beyond the nation) and 
again a loosely defined “culture” (perhaps the same culture 
that Pomerants says “slithers like a snake”?). He insists that 
the existence of nations is a contradiction of the Pentecost. 
(While we for our part thought that by descending upon the 
apostles with many tongues the Holy Ghost confirmed the 
diversity of the nations of mankind, as they have existed 
since that time.) Irascibly he thunders that for Russia the 
“central creative idea” must be not “national rebirth” (it is 
he who puts the expression in quotation marks and forbids us 
to entertain such a foolish concept) but “the struggle for 
Freedom and spiritual values.” We, in our ignorance, foil to 
see any opposition here: how can spiritually lacerated Russia 
retrieve its spiritual values other than by national rebirth? To 
this day the entire history of mankind has run its course in 
the form of tribal and national histories, and all important his- 
torical movements have begun within the national frame- 
work, and none of them in Esperanto. A nation, like a family, 
is a natural, uncontrived association of people whose 
members are innately disposed toward one another, and 
there are grounds for inveighing against such associations or 
calling for their abolition today. What comes afterward will 
be clear in the distant future, when we are not here. 

This, of course, is a point made by Pomerants too. He as- 
sures us that “from the standpoint of nationality all cats are 
gray. . . . Fighting the customs of one’s native land when 
one’s feet are firmly planted on one’s native soil is about as 
simple as dragging oneself out of a bog.” And once again we 
are too stupid to comprehend: from what soil should one 
fight the vices of one’s own country? International soil? We 
have already experienced that fight (carried out with Latvian 
bayonets and Magyar pistols) with our ribs and the backs of 
our necks — no thank youl We must reform ourselves by our- 
selves and not invoke other wise men to be our reformers. 

People will ask why I have fastened onto these two, Po- 



merants and Gorsky, or rather, these one and a half (a half for 
the pseudonym), two with Altayev, or two and a half with 

Because they represent a trend, because they are all 
theoreticians, and because this is evidently not the last we 
shall hear of them. So just to be on the safe side let us chalk 
up the following. In the summer of 1972, when the forests of 
northern Russia were ablaze as a result of Soviet mis- 
management (the concerns of our leaders were in the Middle 
East and Latin America), Semyon Telegin, a live wire, a rol- 
licker and an atheist, put out a samizdat leaflet in which he 
rose to his full gigantic height for the first time and an- 
nounced: this is your divine retribution, Russia, for your 
evildoings! What a breakthrough. 

To find out how the central smatterers view the national 
problem, go to the leading smatterer families, the ones that 
keep pedigreed dogs, and ask them what they call their dogs. 
You will hear (many times over): Foma, Kuzma, Potap, 
Makar, Timofei . . . and this grates upon nobody’s ears, and 
nobody feels any shame. After all, peasants are only “some- 
thing you see in operas,” there is no people left, so why 
should they not call their dogs by peasant Christian names? 

Oh, how is one to traverse the brittle ridge without offend- 
ing one’s own people by wrongful accusation and without 
condoning one’s own vices when they are more grievous 
than another’s? 


But the picture Pomerants paints of the people is, alas, to a 
large extent true. Just as we are probably mortally offending 
him now by alleging that there is no longer an intelligentsia 
in our country, and that it has all disintegrated into a collec- 
tion of smatterers, so he too mortally wounds us by his asser- 
tion that neither is there a people any longer. 

“The people no longer exists. There is the mass, with a 
dim recollection that it was once the people and the bearer of 



God within itself, but now it is utterly empty. . . . The peo- 
ple in the sense of a Chosen People, a source of spiritual val- 
ues, is nonexistent. There are the neurasthenic intel- 
lectuals — and the masses. . , . What do the collective farm 
workers sing? Some remnants of their peasant heritage” and 
whatever is drilled into them “at school, in the army and on 
the radio. . . . Where is it, this ‘people’? The real native 
people, dancing its folk dances, narrating its folktales, weav- 
ing its folk-patterned lace? In our country all that remains are 
the vestiges of a people, like the vestiges of snow in spring. 
. . . The people as a great historical force, a backbone of cul- 
ture, a source of inspiration for Pushkin and Goethe, no 
longer exists. . . . What is usually called the people in our 
country is not the people at all but a petit bourgeoisie.” 

Gloom and doom. And not far from the truth either. 

Indeed, how could the people have survived? It has been 
subjected to two processes both tending toward the same end 
and each lending impetus to the other. One is the universal 
process (which, if it had been postponed any longer in Rus- 
sia, we might have escaped altogether) of what is fashionably 
known as massovization (an abominable word, but then the 
process is no better), a product of the new Western technol- 
ogy, the sickening growth of cities, and the general standard- 
ization of methods of information and education. The second 
is our own special Soviet process, designed to rub off the 
age-old face of Russia and rub on another, synthetic one, and 
this has had a still more decisive and irreversible effect. 

How could the people possibly have survived? Icons, obe- 
dience to elders, bread-baking and spinning wheels were all 
forcibly thrown out of the peasants’ cottages. Then millions 
of cottages — as well-designed and comfortable as one could 
wish — were completely ravaged, pulled down or put into 
the wrong hands and five million hardworking, healthy fami- 
lies, together with infants still at the breast, were dispatched 
to their death on long winter journeys or on their arrival in 
the tundra. (And our intelligentsia did not waver or cry out, 
and its progressive part even assisted in driving them out. 
That was when the intelligentsia ceased to be, in 1930; and 



is that the moment for which the people must beg its forgive- 
ness?) The destruction of the remaining cottages and home- 
steads was less trouble after that. They took away the land 
which had made the peasant a peasant, depersonalized it 
even more than serfdom had, deprived the peasant of all in- 
centive to work and live, packed some off to the Magni- 
togorsks , 23 while the rest — a whole generation of doomed 
women — were forced to feed the colossus of the state before 
the war, for the entire duration of the war and after the war. 
All the outward, international successes of our country and 
the flourishing growth of the thousands of scientific research 
institutes that now exist have been achieved by devastating 
the Russian village and the traditional Russian way of life. In 
its place they have festooned the cottages and the ugly multi- 
story boxes in the suburbs of our cities with loudspeakers, 
and even worse, have fixed them on all the telegraph poles in 
city centers (even today they will be blaring over the entire 
face of Russia from six in the morning until midnight, the 
supreme mark of culture, and if you go and shut them off it's 
an anti-Soviet act). And those loudspeakers have done their 
job well: they have driven everything individual and every 
bit of folklore out of people's heads and drilled in stock sub- 
stitutes, they have trampled and defiled the Russian language 
and dinned vacuous, untalented songs (composed by the in- 
telligentsia) into our ears. They have knocked down the last 
village churches, flattened and desecrated graveyards, 
flogged the horse to death with Komsomol zeal, and their 
tractors and five-ton lorries have polluted and churned up the 
centuries-old roads whose gentle tracery adorns our coun- 
tryside. Where is there left, and who is there left to dance 
and weave lace? Furthermore, they have visited the village 
youth with specially juicy tidbits in the form of quantities of 
drab, idiotic films (the intellectual: “We have to release 
them — they are mass-circulation films") — and the same 
rubbish is crammed into school textbooks and slightly more 

23. Magnitogorsk is a major city in the Urals that underwent most of its de- 
velopment in the twenties and thirties and became a showplace of Soviet in- 
dustry.— Trans. 



adult books (and you know who writes them, don’t you?), to 
prevent new growth from springing up where the old timber 
was felled. Like tanks they have ridden roughshod over the 
entire historical memory of the people (they gave us back 
Alexander Nevsky without his cross , 24 but anything more re- 
cent — no), so how could the people possibly have saved 

And so, sitting here in the ashes left behind by the confla- 
gration, let us try to work it out. 

The people does not exist? Then it’s true that there can be 
no national revival? But what’s that gap there? I thought I 
glimpsed something: as a result of the collapse of universal 
technological progress, in line with the transition that will be 
made to a stable economy, there will be a restoration every- 
where of the primeval attachment of the majority of the peo- 
ple to the land, to the simplest materials and tools, and to 
physical labor (which many satiated town-dwellers are even 
now instinctively seeking for themselves). Thus in every 
country, even the highly developed ones, there will inevita- 
bly be a restoration of some sort of successor to the peasant 
multitudes, something to fill the vacuum left by the people, 
an agricultural and craftsman class (naturally with a new, but 
decentralized, technology). But what about us; can the “oper- 
atic” peasant return no more? 

But then the intelligentsia doesn’t exist either, does it? Are 
the smatterers dead wood for development? 

Have all the classes been replaced by inferior substitutes? 
And if so how can we develop? 

But surely someone exists? And how can one deny human 
beings a future? Can human beings be prevented from going 
on living? We hear their weary, kindly voices sometimes 
without even seeing their faces — as they pass by us some- 
where in the twilight, we hear them talking of their everyday 
concerns, which they express in authentic — and sometimes 
still very spontaneous — Russian speech, we catch sight of 
their faces, alive and eager, and their smiles, we experience 
their good deeds for ourselves, sometimes when we least ex- 
24. Presumably a reference to Eisenstein’s film Alexander Nevsky . — Trans. 



pect them, we observe self-sacrificing families with children 
undergoing all kinds of hardships rather than destroy a 
soul — so how can one deny them all a future? 

It is rashness to conclude that the people no longer exists. 
Yes, the village has been routed and its remnants choked, 
yes, the outlying suburbs are filled with the click of dom- 
inoes (one of the achievements of universal literacy) and bro- 
ken bottles, there are no traditional costumes and no folk 
dances, the language has been corrupted and thoughts and 
ambitions even more deformed and misdirected; but why is 
it that not even these broken bottles, nor the litter blown 
back and forth by the wind in city courtyards, fills one with 
such despair as the careerist hypocrisy of the smatterers? It is 
because the people on the whole takes no part in the official 
lie, and this today is its most distinctive feature, allowing one 
to hope that it is not, as its accusers would have it, utterly 
devoid of God. Or at any rate, it has preserved a spot in its 
heart that has still not been scorched or trampled to death. 

It is also rashness to conclude that there is no intelligen- 
tsia. Each one of us is personally acquainted with at least a 
handful of people who have resolutely risen above both the 
lie and the pointless bustle of the smatterers. And I am en- 
tirely in accord with those who want to see, who want to 
believe that they can already see the nucleus of an in- 
telligentsia, which is our hope for spiritual renewal. Only I 
would recognize and distinguish this nucleus by other signs: 
not by the academic qualifications of its members, nor the 
number of books they have published, nor by the high educa- 
tional level of those who “are accustomed to think and fond 
of thinking, but not of plowing the land,” nor by the scien- 
tific cleverness of a methodology which so easily creates 
“professional subcultures,” nor by a sense of alienation from 
state and people, nor by membership in a spiritual diaspora 
(“nowhere quite at home”). I would recognize this nucleus 
by the purity of its aspirations, by its spiritual selflessness in 
the name of truth, and above all for the sake of this country, 
in which it lives. This nucleus will have been brought up not 
so much in libraries as on spiritual sufferings. It is not the 



nucleus that wishes to be regarded as a nucleus without hav- 
ing to forego the comforts of life enjoyed by the Moscow 
smatterers. Dostoyevsky dreamed in 1877 of the appearance 
in Russia of a generation of “modest and valiant young peo- 
ple.” But on that occasion it was the “demons” (“the pos- 
sessed”) who appeared — and we can see where that got us. 
I can testify, however, that during the last few years I have 
seen these modest and valiant young people with my own 
eyes, heard them with my own ears; it was they who, like an 
invisible film, kept me floating in air over a seeming void and 
prevented me from falling. Not all of them are still at liberty 
today, and not all of them will preserve their freedom tomor- 
row. And far from all of them are evident to our eyes and 
ears — like spring streams they trickle somewhere beneath 
the dense, gray, hard-packed snow. 

It is the method that is at fault: to reason along the lines of 
“social strata” and accept no other basis. If you take social 
strata you will end in despair (as did Amalrik). 25 The in- 
telligentsia as a vast social stratum has ended its days in a 
steaming swamp and can no longer become airborne again. 
But even in the intelligentsia’s former and better times, it 
was incorrect to include people in the intelligentsia in terms 
of whole families, clans, groups and strata. There might well 
have been particular families, clans, groups and strata that 
were intelligentsia through and through, but even so it is as 
an individual that a man becomes a member of the in- 
telligentsia in the true sense of the word. If the intelligentsia 
was a stratum at all, it was a psychological, not a social, one; 
consequently entrance and exit always depended upon indi- 
vidual conduct, not upon one’s occupation or social standing. 

A stratum, a people, the masses, the smatterers — they all 
consist of human beings, and there is no way in which the fii- 

25. Andrei Amalrik (b. 1938), a nonconformist Soviet writer, imprisoned in 
1965 1 and subsequently exiled to Siberia for having produced "anti-Soviet” 
and “pornographic” works. In 1966 Amalrik was permitted to return to Mos- 
cow; in May 1970 he was again arrested on trumped-up charges as a result of 
his writings, and in July 1973 was sentenced to three years forced labor. This 
sentence was commuted in November 1973 to three years exile in Siberia. 

For a discussion of Amalrik’s writings, see pages 280-281 and note on 
page 280.— Trans. 



ture can be closed to human beings: human beings deter- 
mine their future themselves, and whatever point has been 
reached on the crooked, descending path, it is never too late 
to take a turn for the good and the better. 

The future is indestructible, and it is in our hands. If we 
make the right choices. 

Now it is Pomerants who, among the many contradictory 
utterances he makes in his writings, comes out here and 
there with some strikingly truthful ones, and if we put them 
together we shall see that even from differing positions one 
can arrive at similar conclusions. “The present population is 
an amorphous mass between two crystalline structures. . . . 
It can assume a structure if an axis or a branch appears, how- 
ever fragile, around which crystals will start to form.” With 
this I agree entirely. However, doggedly devoted as he is to 
his intelligentsia ideals, Pomerants assigns this role of axis or 
branch exclusively to the intelligentsia. Since samizdat is not 
easily accessible we shall have to quote him at length: “The 
mass can crystallize anew into something resembling a peo- 
ple only around a new intelligentsia. ... I am counting on 
the intelligentsia not at all because it is good. . . . Intellec- 
tual development in itself only increases man’s capacity for 
evil. . . . My chosen people are bad, this I know . . . but the 
rest are even worse.” True, “before salting something you 
must first become the salt again,” and the intelligentsia has 
ceased to be that salt. Ah, “if only we possessed sufficient 
strength of character to give up all our laurels, our degrees 
and our titles. . . .To put an end to this cowardice and whin- 
ing. . . . To prefer a clean conscience to a clean doorstep and 
to school ourselves to make do with an honest slice of bread 
without the caviar.” But: “I do believe that the intelligentsia 
can change and that it can attract others to follow in its foot- 
steps. . . .” 

What is clear to us here is that Pomerants distinguishes the 
intelligentsia and sets it apart in terms of its intellectual de- 
velopment, and only hopes that it will also possess moral 

Was this not at the heart of our old error which proved the 



undoing of us all — that the intelligentsia repudiated re- 
ligious morality and chose for itself an atheistic humanism 
that supplied an easy justification both for the hastily consti- 
tuted revolutionary tribunals and the rough justice meted out 
in the cellars of the Cheka? 26 And did not the rebirth of a 
“nucleus of the intelligentsia” after 1910 arise out of a desire 
to return to a religious morality — only to be cut short by the 
chatter of machine guns? And is not that nucleus whose 
beginnings we think we already discern today a repetition of 
the one that the revolution cut short, is it not in essence a 
“latter-day Vekhi”? For it regards the moral doctrine of the 
value of the individual as the key to the solution of social 
problems. It was for a nucleus of this kind that Berdyayev 
yearned: “An ecclesiastical intelligentsia which would com- 
bine genuine Christianity with an enlightened and clear un- 
derstanding of the cultural and historical missions of the 
country.” So did S. Bulgakov: “An educated class with a Rus- 
sian soil, an enlightened mind and a strong will.” 

Not only is this nucleus not yet a compact mass, as a nu- 
cleus should be, but it is not even collected together, it is 
scattered, its components mutually unrecognizable: many of 
its particles have never seen one another, do not know of one 
another, and have no notion of one another’s existence. And 
what links them is not membership in an intelligentsia, but a 
thirst for truth, a craving to cleanse their souls, and the desire 
of each one to preserve around him an area of purity and 
brightness. That is why even “illiterate sectarians” and some 
obscure milkmaid down on the collective farm are also 
members of this nucleus of goodness, united by a common 
striving for the pure life. And the covetousness and worldly 
wisdom of the cultured academician or artist steers him in ex- 
actly the opposite direction — backward into the familiar 
lurid darkness of this half century. 

What does an “axis” or “branch” for the “crystallization” of 
an entire people mean? It means tens of thousands of human 
beings. Furthermore, it is a potential stratum — but it will 
not overflow into the future in some huge and unobstructed 
26. See note 3 on page 11 . — Trans. 



wave. Forming the “backbone of a new people” is not some- 
thing that can be done as safely and lightheartedly as we are 
promised, at weekends and in our spare time, without giving 
up our scientific research institutes. No, it will have to be 
done on weekdays, as part of the mainstream of our life, in its 
most dangerous sector — and by each one of us in chilling 

A society so vicious and polluted, implicated in so many of 
the crimes of these last fifty years — by its lies, by its servil- 
ity either willing or enforced, by its eagerness to assist or its 
cowardly restraint — such a society can only be cured and 
purified by passing through a spiritual filter. And this filter is 
a terrible one, with holes as fine as the eye of a needle, each 
big enough for only one person. And people may pass into 
the spiritual future only one at a time, by squeezing through. 

By deliberate, voluntary sacrifice. 

Times change, and scales too. A hundred years ago the 
Russian intelligentsia thought of sacrifice in terms of the 
death penalty. Nowadays it is considered a sacrifice to risk 
administrative punishment. And in truth this is no easier for 
abject, browbeaten characters to stomach. 

Even in the most favorable circumstances (if the sacrificial 
impulse is felt by large numbers of people simultaneously) it 
will not be, as Pomerants anticipates, the caviar (already a 
museum piece) that they will have to sacrifice, but the 
oranges and butter with which our scientific research centers 
are so generously supplied. Malicious critics gleefully al- 
leged that in The First Circle I exposed “the low caliber of 
love among the people” by quoting the proverb “people 
marry for cabbage soup and take a husband for meat” — 
while we, of course, love and marry Romeo-style! But there 
are many Russian proverbs to cater for different nuances and 
situations. There is this one too: “Bread and water make fine 

This is the kind of food on which we shall have to demon- 
strate the caliber of our love for this country and its silver 
birch trees. To love looking at them is not enough. The harsh 
Northeast will have to be tamed — and it will be our pre- 



cious smatterers’ children who will have to go there, without 
waiting for the philistines to pave the way. And the clever 
counsels of anonymous authors — conspiracy and more con- 
spiracy (“single-handed sorties are no use”), a thousand-year 
process of enlightenment, the surreptitious development of 
culture — are all rubbish! There is no way left to us to pass 
from our present contemptible amorphousness into the future 
except through open, personal and predominantly public (to 
set an example) sacrifice. We shall have to “rediscover our 
cultural treasures and values” not by erudition, not by scien- 
tific accomplishment, but by oviform of spiritual conduct, 
by laying aside our material well-being and, if the worst 
comes to the worst, our lives. And when it becomes apparent 
that educational qualifications and the number of scholarly 
works published are utterly irrelevant, we shall become won- 
deringly aware of the presence beside us of those “semilit- 
erate preachers of religion” we so despise. 

It would be better if we declared the word “intelligen- 
tsia” — so long misconstrued and deformed — dead for the 
time being. Of course, Russia will be unable to manage with- 
out a substitute for the intelligentsia, but the new word will 
be formed not from “understand” or “know,” but from some- 
thing spiritual. The first tiny minority who set out to force 
their way through the tight holes of the filter will of their 
own accord find some new definition of themselves, either 
while they are still in the filter, or when they have come out 
the other side and recognize themselves and each other. It is 
there that the word will be recognized, it will be bom of the 
very process of passing through. Or else the remaining major- 
ity, without resorting to a new terminology, will simply call 
them the righteous. It would not be inaccurate to call them 
for the moment a sacrificial elite. The word “elite” here will 
arouse the envy of no one, election to it being an extremely 
unenviable honor that no one will complain of being passed 
over for: come and join us, we implore you! 

It is of the lone individuals who pass through (or perish on 
the way) that this elite to crystallize the people will be 



The filter will grow wider and easier for each subsequent 
particle — and the number of particles passing through it will 
increase all the time, so that on the far side these worthy in- 
dividuals might reconstitute and re-create a worthy people (I 
have already explained my interpretation of the word peo- 
ple). So that a society might be formed whose chief character- 
istic would be not its level of productivity, nor its degree of 
prosperity, but the purity of its social relations. 

There is absolutely no other way I can envisage for Russia. 

All that remains is to describe the structure and operation 
of the filter. 


People will laugh at us from outside: what a timid and 
what a modest step we regard as sacrifice. All over the world 
students are occupying universities, going out into the streets 
and even toppling governments, while our students are the 
tamest in the world: tell them it’s time for a political educa- 
tion lecture, refuse to let them take their coats out of the 
cloak room, and nobody will leave. In 1962 the whole of 
Novocherkassk was in tumult, but at the Polytechnic Insti- 
tute they simply locked the door of the students’ quarters and 
nobody jumped out the windows I Or take the starving In- 
dians, who liberated themselves from British domination by 
nonviolent, passive resistance and civil disobedience: but we 
are incapable of even this desperate bravery, neither the 
working class nor the smatterers, for we have been terrorized 
for three generations ahead by dear old Uncle Joe: how can 
you not carry out an order of the authorities? That would be 
the ultimate in self-destruction. 

And if we set out in capital letters the nature of the exami- 
nation we are going to set our fellowmen : DO NOT LIE! 
THE LIE! — it is not only the Europeans who are going to 
laugh at us, but also the Arab students and the ricksha-drivers 
in Ceylon: is this all that is being asked of the Russians? And 



they call that a sacrifice, a bold step, and not simply the mark 
that distinguishes an honest man from a rogue? 

But it is all very well for the apples in another barrel to 
laugh: those being crushed in ours know that it is indeed a 
bold step. Because in our country the daily lie is not the 
whim of corrupt natures but a mode of existence, a condition 
of the daily welfare of every man. In our country the lie has 
been incorporated into the state system as the vital link hold- 
ing everything together, with billions of tiny fasteners, sev- 
eral dozen to each man. 

This is precisely why we find life so oppressive. But it is 
also precisely why we should find it natural to straighten up. 
When oppression is not accompanied by the lie, liberation 
demands political measures. But when the lie has fastened 
its claws in us, it is no longer a matter of politics! It is an in- 
vasion of man’s moral world, and our straightening up and 
refusing to lie is also not political, but simply the retrieval of 
our human dignity. 

Which is the sacrifice? To go for years without truly 
breathing, gulping down stench? Or to begin to breathe, as is 
the prerogative of every man on this earth? What cynic would 
venture to object aloud to such a policy as nonparticipation 
in the lie? 

Oh, people will object at once and with ingenuity: what is 
a lie? Who can determine precisely where the lie ends and 
truth begins? In every historically concrete dialectical situa- 
tion, and so on — all the evasions that liars have been using 
for the past half century. 

But the answer could not be simpler: decide yourself, as 
your conscience dictates. And for a long time this will suf- 
fice. Depending upon his horizons, his life experience and 
his education, each person will have his own perception of 
the line where the public and state lie begins: one will see it 
as being altogether remote from him, while another will ex- 
perience it as a rope already cutting into his neck. And there, 
at the point where you yourself in all honesty see the bor- 
derline of the lie, is where you must refuse to submit to that 
lie. You must shun that part of the lie that is clear and obvi- 



ous to you. And if you sincerely cannot see the lie anywhere 
at all, then go on quietly living as you did before. 

What does it mean, not to lie? It doesn’t mean going 
around preaching the truth at the top of your voice (perish 
the thought!). It doesn’t even mean muttering what you think 
in an undertone. It simply means: not saying what you don t 
think , and that includes not whispering, not opening your 
mouth, not raising your hand, not casting your vote, not 
feigning a smile, not lending your presence, not standing up, 
and not cheering. 

We all work in different fields and move in different walks 
of life. Those who work in the humanities and all who are 
studying find themselves much more profoundly and inex- 
tricably involved in lying and participating in the lie they 
are fenced about by layer after layer of lies. In the technical 
sciences it can be more ingeniously avoided, but even so one 
cannot escape daily entering some door, attending some 
meeting, putting one’s signature to something or undertaking 
some obligation which is a cowardly submission to the lie. 
The lie surrounds us at work, on our way to work, in our 
leisure pursuits — in everything we see, hear and read. 

And just as varied as the forms of the lie are the forms of 
rejecting it. Whoever steels his heart and opens his eyes to 
the tentacles of the lie will in each situation, every day and 
every hour, realize what he must do. 

Jan Palach burned himself to death. That was an extreme 
sacrifice. Had it not been an isolated case it would have 
roused Czechoslovakia to action. As an isolated case it will 
simply go down in history. But not so much is demanded of 
everyone — of you and me. Nor do we have to go out and 
face the flamethrowers breaking up demonstrations. All we 
have to do is breathe. All we have to do is not lie. 

And nobody need be “first,” because there are already 
many hundreds of “firsts,” it is only because of their quiet- 
ness that we do not notice them (especially those suffering 
for their religion, and it is fitting that they work as cleaners 
and caretakers). I can point to several dozen people from the 
very nucleus of the intelligentsia who have been living this 



way for a long time, for years! And they are still alive. And 
their families haven’t died out. And they still have a roof over 
their heads. And food on the table. 

Yes, it is a terrible thought! In the beginning the holes in 
the filter are so narrow, so very narrow: can a person with so 
many needs really squeeze through such a narrow opening? 
Let me reassure him: it is only that way at the entrance, at 
the very beginning. Very soon, not far along, the holes 
slacken and relax their grip, and eventually cease to grip you 
altogether. Yes, of course! It will cost you canceled disserta- 
tions, annuled degrees, demotions, dismissals, expulsions, 
sometimes even deportations. But you will not be cast into 
flames. Or crushed by a tank. And you will still have food and 

This path is the safest and most accessible of all the paths 
open to us for the average man in the street. But it is also the 
most effective! Only we, knowing our system, can imagine 
what will happen when thousands and tens of thousands of 
people take this path — how our country will be purified and 
transformed without shots or bloodshed. 

But this path is also the most moral: we shall be commenc- 
ing this liberation and purification with our own souls. Be- 
fore we purify the country we shall have purified ourselves. 
And this is the only correct historical order: for what is the 
good of purifying our country’s air if we ourselves remain 

People will say: how unfair on the young! After all, if you 
don’t utter the obligatory lie at your social science exam, 
you’ll be failed and expelled from your institute, and your 
education and life will be disrupted. 

One of the articles in the present collection discusses the 
problem of whether we have correctly assessed the best di- 
rections to take in science and are doing what is necessary to 
follow them. Be that as it may, educational damage is not the 
greatest damage one can suffer in life. Damage to the soul 
and corruption of the soul, to which we carelessly assent 
from our earliest years, are far more irreparable. 

Unfair on the young? But whose is the future if not theirs? 



Who do we expect to form the sacrificial elite? For whose 
sake do we agonize over the future? We are already old. If 
they themselves do not build an honest society, they will 
never see it at all. 

January 1974 


Does Russia Have a Future? 



Hardly has the blessing of free thought begun to return to 
us than we are faced with this terrible, yet inevitable, ques- 
tion: What is Russia’ s future and what is our part in her des- 
tiny? A question intimidating in its magnitude and insolu- 
bility, but inescapable, for without an answer to it there is 
no answer to the rest of life’s questions. 

But even to think about it is terrifying, because of a doubt 
that one hardly dare put into words: Is Russia still alive? For 
the life and death of nations are not as easily defined as those 
of living organisms. A nation may have fulfilled its historic 
mission, its creative spirit may have abandoned it, while its 
body — the state — lingers on for decades, still capable of 
putting heretics to death or subjugating its neighbors. Living 
for a great country means more than simply not hilling apart 
and making economic ends meet. It must also know why it 
lives, be aware of its mission in the world. Does Russia have 
such a mission now ? 1 

l. “Belief in one’s desire and ability to give the world a message, and to 
renew it with the abundance of one’s vitality; belief in the sanctity of one’s 
ideals; belief in the strength of one’s love and yearning to serve mankind — 
this belief is the pledge of a nation’s highest existence, and by this means 



A. Amalrik, * 2 in one of the most vivid and brilliant works of 
postrevolutionary Russian thought, recently gave his answer 
to this question. He concluded on the basis of many subtle 
observations and historical analogies that Russia is nearing 
the culmination of her historical journey. In his opinion a 
certain softening of the system does not indicate the begin- 
nings of a deliberate policy of liberalization: it is a symptom 
of the senility of the regime, which is incapable of changing 
to meet the demands of the time, or of dealing effectively 
with the resistance it is encountering. But there are no other 
forces that can claim a leading role. The intelligentsia — or, 
as Amalrik calls them, the middle class — have been brain- 
washed by the bureaucracy, they make a cult of submission, 
they are too feeble to be capable of developing their own 
point of view or organizing themselves. Christian morality 
has been beaten and chased from the minds of the people, 
who now respect only force, but not personality or liberty. 
The Russian people, in the view of the author, has no con- 
cept of the equality of all before the law, or of freedom and 
its concomitant responsibilities, but identifies freedom with 
disorder. In its place they have another concept — that of jus- 
tice. Even this is destructive, however, for its essential prin- 
ciple is: nobody must be better off than myself. With 
frightening plausibility Amalrik sketches our future: a linger- 
ing, unsuccessful war with China, a growth in the centrifugal 
force of local nationalisms, growing economic difficulties, 
especially over the provision of food, destructive and vicious 
outbursts of popular discontent and finally the collapse of 
Russia and its disintegration into smaller parts. He even fore- 
casts when our eleven hundred years of history will come to 
an end — sometime during the 1980s. 

So that is Amalrik’s answer to our question: Russia is dead 

alone can they endow succeeding human generations with all their vitality 
and organic drive, as nature herself ordained in creating them. Only a nation 
strong in this belief has the right to a higher life.” Dostoyevsky, The Diary of 
a Writer, January 1877, Chapter I. 

2. A. Amalrik. Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984? He paid for his 
thoughts with his freedom. [See Andrei Amalrik, Will the Soviet Union Sur- 
vive until 1984? (New York: Harper & Row, 1970). — Trans.] 



and about to decompose. Well, great states have indeed 
perished before, and our feelings of desperation and inner 
protest at the verdict on Russia do not mean that it is unjust. 
But these feelings urge us to accept the verdict only after 
rejecting all the alternatives and examining all the possible 
ways forward. And this is what Amalrik’s book does not seem 
to do. He can say in one sentence that the Russians’ idea of 
justice has turned into hatred of anything that is in the least 
individual or excellent, and in the next that Russians are 
prepared to die at the stake for justice — two statements 
which obviously do not hang together. It strikes me that the 
idea of justice as a force capable of influencing history is 
alien to Amalrik, that it lies on a different plane from the one 
he is accustomed to think in. 

The value of his book, as I see it, is that it has followed one 
possibility through to its logical end, that it has exhausted 
one train of thought. If you look at history as the product of 
the interaction of economic factors, or from the point of view 
of the interplay of the interests of different social groups and 
individuals, and the rights that guarantee these interests, 
then Russia indeed has no future — Amalrik’s arguments are 

But there are, after all, historical processes that depend on 
quite other principles. We, of all people, should not overlook 
the example of the October revolution. Nobody had a better 
nose than Lenin for the tiniest ripples of social and class 
forces, yet a few days before the February rising he saw no 
prospects of a socialist revolution, arguing persuasively in a 
letter to some Swiss workers that such a revolution could not 
succeed in Russia, the most bourgeois-minded country in 

Four hundred years earlier, for that matter, when an un- 
known monk named Luther challenged the greatest force in 
the world at that time, he seemed to be going counter to all 
social and historical laws. 

It is with this in mind that I should like to reexamine Rus- 
sia’s future. Medicine has much to teach us about disease and 
death, but religion knows resurrection also. For the mysteri- 



ous words of I Corinthians 15:21 are nowhere more applica- 
ble than in the life of nations: “For since by man came death , 
by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” 


These words seem addressed directly to us, showing us the 
way. If neither class, nor party, nor a fortunate combination 
of forces on the world political stage can halt the shadow of 
death descending on Russia, then it can only be done by 
man, through the efforts of individual human beings. 

But is it not hopeless for men to endeavor to arrest the in- 
evitable action of historical laws? This is a most serious ob- 
jection, which must be tackled first of all. 

How many generations have now been brought up to be- 
lieve from childhood that the individual is powerless to influ- 
ence the course of history, that history is predetermined by 
the impersonal factors of economics and production? So 
thoroughly indoctrinated are we with this idea that it never 
occurs to us to subject it to intellectual scrutiny. One might 
think it was impossible to understand the nature of the laws 
of history without first knowing what those laws were, but in 
all sciences laws are tested by comparison and experiment. 

Let us perform just one experiment. Let us choose as our 
subject a law which seemed so self-evident to those who 
formulated it that they dubbed it the “iron” law. This was the 
“iron law of wages,” according to which under the capitalist 
method of production a worker's wage was always equivalent 
to the minimum necessary to sustain life. Its corollary was 
the inevitable total impoverishment of the proletariat. Any 
reference to this prophecy now, and to others like it, is em- 
barrassing. Not only are the workers of Western Europe and 
America getting continuously richer, but thanks to strikes and 
trade-union policy they receive far more than their labor is 
strictly worth, which is causing serious problems. Similarly 
with all the other prophecies made by these oracles — of rev- 
olution beginning in the most highly industrialized coun- 



tries, of the collapse of capitalism under the impact of 
repeated periodic crises, of the withering away of the state 
under socialism, of the replacement of armies by a militia, of 
the abolition of specialization that distorts the human person- 
ality, of the impossibility of war between socialist coun- 
tries — wherever you look, it’s the same picture. Only one 
conclusion is possible — that there is no truth in these 
theories. Their authors either completely failed to under- 
stand the laws of history, or else did not say what they really 

But now let us look at their actions. The October revolu- 
tion was made by people who were fanatically convinced 
that history could be manipulated, that even a small group of 
people could change its course so long as they knew how to 
go about it. In this sense October crystallized the character of 
the twentieth century. The idea that power is there for the 
taking spread all over the world, and this concept was really 
borne out by experience — in Italy, Germany, Latin America, 
China and Africa. Yet the men who began this whole move- 
ment preached that the individual is powerless before the ir- 
resistible laws of history. What a strange contradiction! 

Judged by their actions rather than their words, the men 
who made the revolution believed that human personality, 
together with such attributes as conscience, self-respect, love 
for others and for one’s country, was the greatest force in his- 
tory. How much energy was expended in paralyzing this 
force, in propagating the idea that morality, ethics, kindness 
or patriotism were ridiculous, unscientific, outmoded con- 
cepts, that man’s only motivation was self-interest and the in- 
terest of the group, class or party to which he belonged. This 
propaganda was no mere literary exercise: when the soldier, 
the defender of the fatherland, deserted the front and turned 
his bayonet against his neighbor (the landowner), it served 
the same end. 

And how well those efforts paid offl Here is the clue to the 
mystery of the abject submission which would otherwise be 
inexplicable: in order to fight for your life, fear is not 
enough — you need to have preserved your moral strength as 



well. Those who attended political meetings during the day 
to vote for the execution of the accused at the Industrial 
party 3 trial would sit waiting for their own arrest at night. 
The results were in direct proportion to the victim’s commit- 
ment to this philosophy: the peasants, though broken in 
spirit, endeavored to resist and revolt, while Old Bolsheviks 
went to the camps with revolutionary songs on their lips and 
received their bullets in the cellar with cries of “Long Live 

Denying the existence of historical laws is tantamount to 
refusing to understand history itself. But is it credible that 
history should be governed by laws that work like clock- 
work? Even in quantum mechanics it is considered theoreti- 
cally impossible to eliminate the influence of the observer on 
what is being observed. History’s laws must, of course, take 
account of a fundamental element — the influence of human 
beings and their free will. Politicians and all great historians 
have always taken this for granted. And at every turn of his- 
tory, wherever it has led mankind — whether to the victory 
of Christianity or the October revolution — the decision has 
always been in the hands of men and depended on their free 


The fact that in principle men can influence the course of 
history does not of course mean that we in our country can do 
so now. Each one of us is not merely an individual, but also a 
small component in a vast machine, which is subject to its 
own laws and makes demands on its components that take no 
account of their free will or their immortal souls. Once upon 
a time J. V. Stalin whimsically referred to us all as “cogs” and 
even proposed a toast to the health of the “cogs.” Have the 

3. The name of a nonexistent underground party alleged to have been 
founded by industrial managers. It was the pretext for one of the first big 
show trials in 1930. See also note 13 on page 240. — Trans. 



cogs strength enough left in their souls to withstand the pres- 
sure of the machine? 

I am certain the strength is there, that anyone who wishes 
can take the first steps toward his liberation now, and that the 
obstacles in the way are not outside us, but within — in our 
lifelong habits. 

Let us try to understand the concrete ways in which our 
freedom is circumscribed. Few people nowadays, and then 
only rarely, have to take decisions for which they might have 
to pay with their lives or their liberty. But at every step life 
presents us with choices touching upon one particular ques- 
tion, and that is whether to give in to force a little, to bow to 
pressure, or to stand our ground and straighten our backs. We 
are constantly being urged to join the party — should we 
join? We are pressed to become party agitators — so we par- 
ticipate in the infantile charade of elections that give us no 
alternatives? A child is bom — do we christen him in 
church? We have been given an interesting samizdat article 
to read — do we type a copy for ourselves, do we pass it on to 
others to read? We are invited to a meeting where neither 
speaker nor audience believes a word of what is being 
said — do we go? We are asked to support someone who is 
being unjustly persecuted — do we sign a letter in his de- 
fense? Even the boldest action in these cases no longer en- 
tails imprisonment or the permanent loss of one’s job. The 
risk is merely one of official displeasure, the loss of regular 
promotion and pay raises, no new television set, no bigger 
apartment, no official trip abroad. 

A process of barter takes place in which we pay with parts 
of our own soul that are essential to its health and survival. 
Our sense of self-respect and self-confidence is replaced by 
ruthless hostility toward others and the cunning mentality of 
the slave. Worst of all, life loses its aura of happiness and 
meaningful purpose. The price we pay is sterility in art and 
science, lives wasted on week-long vigils in endless queues 
for objects that nobody wants, and unprecedented alcoholism 
unheard of elsewhere on this planet and destroying not only 



this generation but the genes of descendants yet unborn. 

What does life offer us in exchange? As a rule the bare 
necessities that keep starvation at bay and enable us to feed 
the children. These are not in question. What is, then? I 
would say: values that do not lie in the material sphere. 
Sometimes this is quite obvious, sometimes less so. A medal, 
for example, neither feeds you nor keeps you warm. A large 
and expensive automobile soon falls apart on our roads, park- 
ing in the cities is more difficult, and with speed limited by 
law you get to your destination no quicker than in the cheap- 
est vehicle. A trip abroad can be important for a budding en- 
gineer’s or scientist’s career, but its attraction is far greater 
than its usefulness. An expensive new suit keeps you no 
warmer than an old one patched at the elbows. And so on. 
None of these values has a consumer significance, their 
meaning is quite different: they show a man’s place in the hi- 
erarchy of surrounding society. Like paper money, they have 
no value in themselves, but are symbols of something that 
men value highly. 

Evidently any society, in order to exist, has to arrange its 
members in some sort of hierarchy. The hierarchy of human 
society reflects that society’s outlook on life. The people most 
skilled in the activities that are highly regarded by society 
possess the greatest authority. Society endows such people 
with symbols that underline their authority — nose ring, 
gold-braided uniform or Chaika 4 automobile. These symbols 
acquire an exceptional attraction for the members of that so- 
ciety, persuading them to behave in the way society prefers. 

It is this force that is the greatest limiting factor on our 
present freedom. It springs not from machine guns or barbed 
wire, but from our own opinions, from our inward, unques- 
tioning acceptance of the hierarchy of surrounding society, 
from our assumption that a high position in it really matters. 
Like a hen fascinated by the chalk line the hypnotist draws 
before her, we are petrified because we believe our chains to 

4. The larger and more expensive of the two types of automobile produced 
by the indigenous Soviet auto industry. It is commonly used to carry top- 
ranking party bureaucrats and government officials. — Trans. 



be real. The road to freedom begins within ourselves, when 
we stop clawing our way up the rungs of the career ladder or 
of quasi-affluence. And just as we sacrifice the best part of 
our souls in pursuit of these will-o’-the-wisps, so when we 
give them up shall we find the real meaning of life. 

This is a feasible way out. Christianity, which originated 
just when the ancient world was reaching its apogee, ac- 
cepted neither the ancient world’s philosophy nor its ac- 
knowledged hierarchy, and this was one of the secrets of its 
invincibility. In our time too there exist small circles measur- 
ing their values by entirely different standards from those of 
the world outside. Once this movement is established and 
broadly based, we shall gain a freedom that we cannot even 
begin to contemplate at this moment. 

One dangerous aspect of this approach is its negative char- 
acter. If life asks a man to sacrifice everything he holds most 
dear in exchange for a sham, for pieces of paper with a price 
written on them but corresponding to no real value, then the 
practical conclusions he should draw from this realization are 
obvious: he should refuse this exchange, turn aside from this 
path. But since all life in our country and all its manifesta- 
tions are in the hands of the state, would not a painter, for ex- 
ample, in accepting this view, have to give up painting, a 
scientist to give up his science? Would we not end by refus- 
ing to take an active part in life itself and in any cultural ac- 

People everywhere in the world tend to speak of contem- 
porary culture as becoming more and more antihuman, say- 
ing there is no room for man in it any more, and there is a 
growing retreat from culture as a reaction against this trend. 
That is why our question has particular significance and rele- 
vance, not only for the fate of the individual in modem in- 
dustrial society, but also for the future of culture. 

In answering it we must remember that here we are deal- 
ing only with a general principle. In practice everyone takes 
stock of his own strength and decides how far he can go 
along this path. All we have to determine is whether or not 
this general principle is contrary to culture, whether or not it 



leads us away from a field in which man has an obligation to 

Let us take examples from several fields of endeavor. It is 
natural to begin with literature, since it has always played a 
special part in Russian life. The concept of the writer as a 
teacher, able to perceive the truth that remains hidden from 
others, is purely Russian and peculiar to our people. 

It is in literature that our question can be posed in its 
clearest form. To climb the hierarchical ladder the writer 
generally has to perform functions that are diametrically op- 
posed to the goals of literature: to conceal and pervert the 
truth instead of seeking it. Hence the appearance of that anti- 
literature glorifying Stalin, Dzerzhinsky and Yezhov, the 
Cheka , 5 the White Sea-Baltic Canal , 6 collectivization, the 
persecution of “enemies of the people,” and the denuncia- 
tions of parents by their children. In these circumstances the 
question — can one be a writer outside this organiza- 
tion? — hardly arises, for literature can only survive by keep- 
ing its distance from all this. And indeed everything 
beautiful, truthful and profound that has been created in our 
time was created by people whom fate, however cruel the 
means, nonetheless protected from being drawn into this 
zone which meant death to literature. 

In the human sciences — philosophy, history and sociol- 
ogy — the picture is similar. The only difference is that even 
fewer people have managed to fight their way out of anti- 
science than out of antiliterature. As for the natural sciences, 
it would seem that here we have no freedom of choice at all. 
In order to become a scientist one has to study at university, 
gain a higher degree, have access to laboratories, accelerators 
and computers. But here too it is far from being so simple. 
The sheer scale, the superorganized character of modem 
science has been its misfortune, even its curse. There are so 
many scientists and their output is so great that it is impossi- 

5. The Cheka was the original name of the Soviet secret police (1917-1922), 
whose first chief was Felix E. Dzerzhinsky. Nikolai I. Yezhov was chief of 
the secret police (when it was known as the NKVD), 1936-1938. — Trans. 

6. The White Sea-Baltic Canal was built with slave labor from Stalin’s labor 
camps. — T rans. 



ble to read all the publications even in one narrow specialty. 
The scientist’s horizon dwindles to a pinpoint and he ex- 
hausts himself trying to keep abreast of his countless compet- 
itors. God’s design, the divine beauty of truth as revealed in 
science, gives way to a bundle of petty technical problems. 
Science becomes a race, millions speed along without the 
least idea of where they are going. There is still satisfaction 
in this race for the few with vision, who can see a few steps 
ahead, but the vast majority see nothing but the heels of the 
one immediately in front, feel nothing but the panting breath 
of the one treading on their heels behind. 

But even if it were possible to surmount the fact that 
science no longer brings the satisfaction it is capable of giv- 
ing, that it deforms those who practice it, there are other 
reasons why it cannot go on the same way indefinitely. The 
output of science is now doubling every ten to fifteen years, 
the number of scientists is growing correspondingly, and 
spending on science is rising at almost the same rate. This 
process has been going on for two hundred to two hundred 
fifty years, but now it is clear that it cannot go on much 
longer — for by the end of this century spending on science 
would exceed the whole of society’s gross product. In prac- 
tice, of course, insuperable difficulties will arise long before 
then — probably in the 1980s (remember Amalrik!). In other 
words, development in this direction is doomed and the only 
question that remains is whether science can switch to an- 
other way, whereby the discovery of the truth demands nei- 
ther millions of men nor billions of money, the way trodden 
by Archimedes and Galileo and Mendel. That is the fun- 
damental problem now, science’s life-and-death question. It 
will hardly be solved by those already trapped like squirrels 
in its treadmill. Our hopes must rest on those who have not 
yet been caught in its momentum. 

Finally, it is impossible not to mention that sphere of cul- 
tural activity that is perhaps more important than any other 
for the healthy life of a nation — religion. For hundreds of 
thousands of years it was the noblest and most powerful mo- 
tive force of mankind, yet in the space of a few decades we 



have broken with it, though not because we have found 
something to take its place or something nobler. One can 
judge from the results how the nation’s soul becomes crip- 
pled, not only in our own country but also in others, from 
Germany to China, where the state has tried to wrench the 
people away from religion. The entire history of mankind 
consists of brutalities, but never before has violence paraded 
itself so brazenly, declaring itself to be the benevolent tool of 
history’s laws, and never before, therefore, has such a pitch 
of technical perfection been reached in turning man into 
putty in the hands of his fellowmen as in these countries in 
recent times. 

Nietzsche’s literary phrase “God is dead!” has become a 
reality in our country and by now the third generation is liv- 
ing in a terrifying world without God. 

Here, I would say, is the key to the whole question: it is 
the efforts applied in this sphere that will determine the life, 
death or resurrection of Russia. This most vital of all the 
fields of activity for our people will require hundreds of thou- 
sands of hands and heads (let us recall that there were three 
hundred thousand priests in Russia before the revolution). 
And it goes without saying that only people who renounce 
the system of values offered by our present life can work in 
this field. 

Does it not follow then that this path, far from leading us 
away from culture, will actually help us to find those most es- 
sential and most hidden paths which would otherwise be in- 


And so it turns out that we are no longer hopelessly fet- 
tered and bound, that there is a road that leads to freedom. 
But in order to follow it we must understand that it will 
require the renunciation of things which actually have no 

Thus we may take the first and perhaps most precious steps 



toward freedom — our own and Russia’s. But we must not 
close our eyes to the fact that they are no more than the first 
steps. One may be imprisoned even for typing a copy of some 
samizdat work, let alone for circulating one’s own work in it. 
But nothing matters more at the present time than joining 
forces to debate the vital issues of our country’s future — for 
no ideas can develop in isolation, undebated. Similar penal- 
ties threaten expressions of religious belief, and especially 
religious movements unwilling to submit to a convoluted sys- 
tem of repressive regulations. Any act of persecution causes 
revulsion and arouses protest, which in turn leads to more 
persecution. But when it comes to what might seem to be 
perfectly natural actions — distributing pamphlets or demon- 
strating in support of an arrested person — risk is not the 
word, imprisonment is a certainty. And loss of employment, 
especially if one has a wife and children to support, exile to 
Siberia, a concentration-camp sentence, or finally the night- 
mare of indefinite confinement in an insane asylum — none 
of these can be called sham sacrifices. 

So we conclude: Russia’s fate is in our hands, it depends 
on the personal efforts of each and every one of us. But the 
essential contributions to the cause can be made only 
through sacrifice. 

This might seem a misfortune, but in fact it is an irresist- 
ible weapon and a source of unlimited power. Few social 
forces act so powerfully on people as the drive for self- 
sacrifice in pursuit of higher ideals. It may not always be so, 
but at decisive periods in history sacrifice acquires a glamour 
that cannot be explained by any theory of sociology. Experi- 
enced politicians know this fact empirically and take advan- 
tage of it: calls for sacrifice generally meet with a ready 
response among the people. One reason why the revolution 
succeeded in our country was undoubtedly the fact that only 
in revolutionary activity could the intelligentsia find an out- 
let for their yearning for great deeds and sacrifice. What 
theoretician would have forecast the heroic deeds of the last 
war? For the outcome of the war was determined by peasants 
who had already borne the heaviest burdens. How else can 



this miracle be explained except by the feet that the war en- 
abled people to stand up straight and hold their heads high, 
that it opened the way to honest, voluntary self-sacrifice, 
which life had hitherto denied them. 

We know how joyfully the early Christians sacrificed them- 
selves. So strong was this urge that many fathers of the 
Church warned against the search for a martyr’s crown and 
taught that martyrdom is sacred only when not actively pur- 
sued but waited for. This comparison, alas, has little rele- 
vance for us. Of all Russia’s sorrows, perhaps the greatest is 
that she still lives (or dies) without faith. Even if a cure is 
possible, the task is infinitely difficult; it will take every 
ounce of our energy, and it will scarcely be accomplished 
quickly. But there is another spiritual state, akin to faith and 
much more accessible to us: readiness for sacrifice. The con- 
cept of sacrifice has always been mysteriously linked with 
religion. Sacrifice offers the same sense of uplift and joy and 
gives a meaning to life. If more than just a few individuals 
can rise to the pitch where they are ready to sacrifice them- 
selves, souls will be cleansed and the soil prepared for re- 
ligion to grow in. 

Sacrifice can give us the strength to overcome the many ob- 
stacles in Russia’s path — on one condition: that such a path 
still exists. Which brings us back to the question with which 
we began this article: what is the purpose of Russia’s exis- 
tence now, and has she still a historic mission? 

It is hard to believe that any country has ever suffered such 
a multitude of catastrophes as has been unleashed on Russia 
during the last half century. Surely they cannot have been 
senseless and in vain? Involuntarily one looks for some pur- 
pose in them, thinking that they must have been preparing us 
for something. So often in the life of a man or a people, suf- 
fering is the path to higher things. Indeed, Russia’s present 
position is unique: the misfortunes heaped upon us have 
blotted out all the simple, easily discernible paths, forcing us 
to search for the one essential and untrivial path that can lead 
to our (and perhaps not only Russia’s) salvation. We have al- 
ready seen a few examples. It is incomparably easier for a 



budding scientist in the West to get onto the conveyor belt of 
modem science: he has no need to pretend to be fulfilling 
some social task, nor to speak against his conscience at ideo- 
logical seminars, while scientific information is far more ac- 
cessible to him and international contacts far easier. Here, by 
contrast, everything conspires to divert him from this fatal 

Many profound thoughts have been expressed, beginning 
with Plato, about the need for the best individuals, the elite 
of the aristocracy, to rule the people. But these systems have 
always led to the destruction of the profoundest and most 
beautiful attributes of the soul, and, instead of elevating, 
have degraded both the members of the elite and those they 
ruled. Is this not because the wrong method of rule was indi- 
cated? For it should really be effected not through power but 
through sacrifice. In other countries and at other times this 
may not seem so obvious, but for us this method of serving 
the people is the only one. Destiny has brought us to this and 
enabled us to taste these truths with our bodies and our 
blood, whereas it has not been revealed to other nations half 
so clearly . 7 

It has often been said that Russia cannot save herself alone 
and solve only her own private problems. The English, while 
maintaining the slave trade and holding India in bondage, 
were able to build what was then the freest society in the 
world. We cannot do this, and have proved the converse at 
least: however great the misfortunes that Russia has brought 
on other peoples, she has always brought even greater ones 
on her own. 

The whole of mankind has now entered a blind alley. It 
has become clear that a civilization founded on the ideology 
of “progress” gives rise to contradictions that that civilization 
cannot resolve. And it seems to me that the path to Russia’s 

7. Let us take a more particular example, such as the method of dissemi- 
nating literature. For us, samizdat is the only possibility, but in principle it 
is also the ideal way: the distribution of works is independent of both the 
censor and the advertiser. With the aid of modem technology this method 
can be made fully effective. But for the West it would be difficult to give up 
existing methods, which in any case have worked pretty well so far. 



rebirth is the same as the path that will enable man to find a 
way out of his blind alley, to find salvation from the senseless 
race of industrial society, the cult of power and the darkness 
of unbelief. We were the first to reach this vantage point, 
whence the uniqueness of this path became visible, and it is 
now up to us to set foot on it and point the way to others. 
This is my idea of Russia’s possible mission, the purpose 
which can justify her future existence. 

The past half century has enriched us with experience that 
no other country has yet acquired. One of religion’s most an- 
cient ideas is that in order to acquire supernatural power, one 
must visit another world, one must pass through death. That 
is how soothsayers and prophets are said to have arisen: “I 
lay as a corpse in the wilderness and the voice of God cried 
out to me . . .” 

This is now Russia’s position. She has passed through 
death and may hear the voice of God. But God makes history 
through men, and it is we, every one of us, who may hear His 
voice. Or, of course, we may not hear it. And remain as 
corpses in the wilderness that will cover the ruins of 


Notes on Contributors 

Mikhail Agursky (bom 1933) is the son of an American 
Communist who went to the Soviet Union and was shot in 
Stalin’s great purge of 1937. He is a cyberneticist by profes- 
sion, but was deprived of all employment after applying to 
emigrate to Israel. He is the author of a number of samizdat 
essays and of open letters in defense of Solzhenitsyn and 

Evgeny Barabanov (bom 1943) is an art historian who for- 
merly worked for the publishing house Iskusstvo (Art) and its 
associated journal, Dekorativnoye iskusstvo (Decorative Art). 
He was deprived of his post in September 1973 when placed 
under investigation by the KGB for sending copies of the 
clandestine journal Chronicle of Current Events, and un- 
published material on Russian religious and cultural life, to 
the West. He admitted the charges, saying that he considered 
it his duty to save the Russian cultural heritage from destruc- 
tion and that there was nothing illegal in sending information 
out of the country. In 1974 he was refused permission to 

Vadim Borisov (bom 1945) is a historian who studied at 



Moscow University and the Institute of History of the Soviet 
Academy of Sciences. He was recently prevented from pre- 
senting his doctoral thesis on Russian Church history of the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and has been deprived of 
all employment. 

F. Korsakov and A. B. are the pseudonyms of authors for 
whom it would be dangerous to reveal their identities at the 
present time. 

IGOR Shafarevich (bom 1923), the author of three essays in the 
present collection and its coeditor, is a mathematician and al- 
gebraist of world repute who taught at Moscow University until 
his connection was terminated after the publication of this work. 
A former laureate of the Lenin Prize, he is credited as having 
discovered the law of reciprocity. His The Socialist Phenomenon was 
published in Russian in Paris in 1975 and appeared in the United 
States in 1980. 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (bom 1918) is a Nobel Laureate for 
literature. He fought in World War II, and was imprisoned in 
various labor camps because of his outspoken criticism of the 
Soviet regime. Now living in exile in Vermont, Solzhenitsyn is 
world famous as both a literary and a political figure. 



“A.B (biography), 296 
“abstinence,” concept of, 149-150 
advertising. See mass media 
Afghani, Jamal ed-Din al-: quoted, 28 
Agursky, Mikhail (biography), 295 
Albania, 29, 112-113 
Albigensians, 40 
alcoholism, 285 

Aleksei Mikhailovich, tsar of Russia, 
n6n.2, 159 

Alexander II, tsar of Russia, 157n.11 
Alexander III, tsar of Russia, 1330.15 
Alexius, Patriarch, 175, 176 
Altayev (pseudonym), 242, 264; 

quoted, 243-244 , 254, 260 
Amalrik, Andrei, 269, 280-281, 289 
Ambrose, Father, 157m 10 
American Machinist (periodical), 82 
Amin, Idi, 112 

Anarchism, founding of, 62n.i2 
Antichrist, the, 194 
anti-Semitism, 197 
Apostolic Brethren, 36, 39 
Arab-Israeli conflict, 6 
Archipelago, 118, 164 
Armenian massacres, 111 
arms and armaments, 80; and 
“militarization” of economy, 48, 
56-57; USSR and, 70, 1390.17 
art. See culture 

asceticism, i57n.8, n.9, 182-183, 

Assembly (Veche) (journal), 101 
atheism, 29, 125, 155, 175, 189; intel- 
ligentsia and, 231; Marx and, 30; at 
tsarism’s fall, 178-179. See also re- 

atomic war, 7 

Augustine, St.: quoted, 105 
Austria-Hungary, 91, 134 
authoritarian system, 23-25, 79 
automation. See technology 
Avvakum, Archpriest, 174 

Bakunin, Mikhail: quoted, 62-63 
Barabanov, Evgeny (biography), 295 
barter system, 48 
Batory, Stefan, 131 
Bebel, August: quoted, 59 
Belinsky, Vissarion G., 156, 245 
Berdyayev, Nikolai A., v, vi, vii, 188, 
2oin.7, 235-236; quoted, 55, 271 
Bible, quotations from, 148, 152, 154, 
162-170 passim), 203-209 (pas- 
sim), 212, 282 

Bibles, demand for, 155-156 
birth control, 51-52. See also popula- 

Blok, Alexander, 156, 214 
Bolshevism: defined, 125, 126; inter- 

*9 7 


Bolshevism (< cont .) 
national forces and, 126-127; "Na- 
tional,” 120; and “Old Bolsheviks,” 

Borisov, Vadim (biography), 295-296 
"Borotbists,” 98 
Botticelli, Sandro, 189 
Brandt, Willy, 74, 114 
British Empire, 73, 91, m-ii2, 262, 

Buddhism, 64 

Bulgakov, Sergei, v, vi, 59, 148, 
2om.7; Karl Marx as a Religious 
Type , 30; quoted, 20, 121, 197, 236, 

bureaucracy, 42, 85, 280; and Russian 
Church, 173, 177; "Union of the 
Equal” and, 43^44 
Byelorussia, 132, 133 
Byzantium, 174, 178, 184 

Cadets (Constitutional Democratic 
party), 21, i03n.8, 2230.21 
Campanella, Tommaso, 42, 43, 46, 52; 

City of the Sun , 41 
capitalism, 282-283; vs. socialism, 
6-8, 29, 67-87 

"catching up,” 3, 7, 99, 140. See also 
Catharists, 36, 40 

Catholic Church. See Church, the; 

Russian Orthodox Church 
censorship, 44, 86; Index on, 80. See 
also mass media; samizdat 
Central Committee, 48, 180 
Chaadayev, P. Y., 150; quoted, 162, 

Chaika (automobile), 286 
Cheka. See secret police 
Chekhov, Anton, 189 
Chelnov (pseudonym): quoted, 125, 
126, 249, 25 7 

Childe, Gordon: What Happened in 
History, quoted, 36 
children. See family 
China, 9, 52, 79, 88, 134, 280, 290; as 
world power, 74, 216 
Christ, 43, 59, 187, 209; search for, 
151, 183; teachings of, 24, 181-182, 

Christianity, 287; and "abstinence” 
concept, 149-150; and asceticism, 
I57n£, n.9, 182-183, 184-185; 
and culture, 174-175, 188-189; 
defined, 208; duality of, 181, 188; 
and hell, concept of, 188; and his- 
tory, 174, 185; ideology and, 180, 
185, 192; and Kingdom of God, 
181-184, 188, 191; and the Mass, 
179-180, 184, 191; and personality, 
203-212, 225; Poland and, 131, 
133; and responsibility, 185, 213, 
228; and sacrament of confession, 
153-154; and sacrifice, 176, 292; 
and "speaking in tongues,” 209, 
263; and "universalism,” 203 (see 
also universalism); Western "inno- 
vations” in, 186. See also Church, 
the; religion; Russian Orthodox 

Chronicle of Current Events, 295 
Chukovskaya, Lydia, 251 
Chukovsky, Komei, 25 m. 18 
Church, die: Catholic, 29, 39; de- 
struction of, 11, 39, 155, 238; and 
"godless five-year plan,” 49; "I 
Myself” and, 158-161; intelligen- 
tsia and, 155-157* 177* 19^, *7i; 
reality of, 172-173; return to, 
145-146, 153-161, 173, 191-193; 
and search for Truth, 166-171 . 174, 
187; the state and, 96-97, 155, 
173-174* 175-181; in totalitarian 
society, 177-179. See also Chris- 
tianity; religion; Russian Orthodox 

civil rights, 118-11904 
class struggle, 81, 215-216. See also 
people, the 
coexistence, 9-14 
collectivization, 11, 95, 2 88 
colonialism, 93-98, 111-112. See also 

Comintern (Third International), 

communes, 85; and industry, 82-83 
communism, 12, 47-48, 127, 243-244 
Communist Manifesto, The, 28, 29, 
30, 49, 50 

Communist party, 98,, 


Communist Sverdlov Institute 
(“Sverdlovka”), 51 
competition, 71, 73 
computerization. See technology 
conglomerates, 69-70 
conservation. See natural resources 
Constantine I (the Great), 178 
Constantius I, Roman emperor, 178 
Constitution, 179 

Constitutional Democratic party. See 

consumption, 68-69, 77, 81-84; of 
natural resources, 72-73, 108 
convergence, 13, 17, 217, 222 
Council for Religious Affairs, 175 
Cuba, 127 

culture, 100; “antihuman” 287-288; 
Christianity and, 174-175, 188- 
190; death of, 42, 43, 94, 95, 
216; intelligentsia and, i99n.6, 
2i5n.i7, 255-256, 258-259, 261; 
under oppression, 57, 255-256; sci- 
ence and, 220-221, 255-256 

Dal, V.: quoted, 235, 242 
Darwin, Charles, 201 
death, socialism and, 61-64 
Declaration of the Rights of Man, 8 
defense, 142-143 
de Gaulle, Charles, 74 
democratic system, 24, 216; faults of, 
22, 75-80; vs. totalitarian society, 
80, 85; and “tyranny of majority,” 
76, 219 

deportation. See population 
De Profundis (anthology), vii, 161 
Deschamps, Leger Marie, 43; The 
True System, 42 
Deutscher, I., 12 

dictatorships. See totalitarian society 
Diderot, Denis: Supplement to the 
“Journey” of Bougainville, 42 
divorce. See marriage 
Dolcino (leader of Patarene move- 
ment), 64 

Dollinger, I. von: quoted, 40 
Dostoyevsky, F. M., 90, 103, 156,, 162, 174, 189, 20in.7,2i4, 
223, 234; Diary of a Writer, 109, 
233, 279-2800.1; “A Noble Person- 
ality,” 56; The Possessed, 53-54, 

148, i55n.2; quoted, 22, 53~54, 56, 
109, 147-148, 202, 204, 269, 

DuMek, Alexander, 258 
Dzerzhinsky, Felix E., 288 

ecology. See natural resources 
economy: colonialism and, 95; ex- 
pansion and, 138; “militarization” 
of, 48, 56-57; NEP, 48; and stan- 
dard of living, 71, 94, 217, 224; and 
unemployment, 71, 238. See also 
capitalism; industry; socialism 
ecumenism, 159. See also religion 
education, 53“54, 140, 242, 246 
Egypt, Old Kingdom of, 35-36, 53 
“elite.” See intelligentsia 
Engels, Friedrich, 28; The Origin of 
the Family, Private Property and 
the State , 49; quoted, 63^13, 
65m 14 

England. See British Empire 
Enlightenment, the, 157, 189; “Age 
of,” 37 

equality, 56; and personality, 200- 
201, 211; and religion, 55, 200; 
“Shigalyovism,” 53-54; and “The 
Union of the Equal,” 43^44, 55 
Ermogen, Archbishop, 175 
Eshilman, Nikolai, 175 
Estonia, 95, 98-99, 102, 133 
Eucharist, the, 183, 185 

family: and birth control, 51-52; and 
children denouncing parents, 288; 
destruction of, 30-31, 38-42, 44, 
45-46, 49-50, 53, 56-57; intel- 
ligentsia and, 240, 249; Lenin on, 
50; Marxist views on, 49-52, 54-55; 
Volfson on, 49-50, 51; and wife- 
sharing, 30, 39-40, 44, 45, 54- See 
also marriage 

fashion and obsolescence, 68-69. See 
also consumption 
Fedotov, G.: quoted, 235 
Fenelon, Francois, 42 
Feuerbach, Ludwig A., 30 
Fichte, J. G.: quoted, i98n.5 
First Circle, The (Solzhenitsyn), 272 
Florensky, Father Pavel, 157, 169, 



Florensky, Father Pavel ( cont .) 
20in.7; The Pillar and Ground of 
the Truth f quoted, 151 
Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de: 
The Republic of Philosophers , 42 
foreign policy (USSR), 6, 7-8; vs. 

internal problems, 8-9, 139-142 
forgiveness. See repentance, national 
Fourastier, Jean: quoted, 220-221 
Fourier, Charles, 65, 66; quoted, 59, 


France, 73, 74, 75, m 
Frank, Semyon, v, 148, 2om.7 
freedom, 18, 147, 217, 224, 280; abuse 
of democratic, 75-77; curbs on, 285, 
286-287; definition of, 136; of ex- 
pression, 4-5, 9, 86-87 (see also 
censorship); intelligentsia and, 79, 
248, 255; Marxist concept of, 136; 
and nationality, 211-212; People's 
Freedom party, 21 ; political, 22-25, 
198; sacrifice and, 291, 293; and 
self-limitation, i35“ 1 38 
Freud, Sigmund, 64, 201 

Galbraith, John Kenneth, 69-70; The 
New Industrial State , quoted, 84 
Germany and Germans, 73, 74, 89, 
125, 262, 290; and repentance, 
91-92, 1 14. See also Nazi Germany 
Gershenzon, M., v, vi 
“godless five-year plan,” 49. See also 
Church, the; religion 
Goethe, Johann W. von, 265 
Gogol, Nikolai, 100, is6n.5, 174, 189, 
234, 245m 17 
Golden Horde, 133 
Golubov, K.: quoted, 136 
Gorsky (pseudonym), 121, 127, 264; 
quoted, 122, 123, 124, 260, 261, 

GPU. See secret police 
Granovsky, Timofei, 245; quoted, 


Gregory, St. (the Theologian), 170 
Gregory of Nyssa, St., 208 
Gregory Sinaiticus, St., 161 
Griboyedov, Alexander, i48n.3 
guilt, historical. See repentance, na- 

Gulag Archipelago , The (Solzheni- 
tsyn), 164 

“happiness” as aim, 20-21, 22 
Hartmann, Karl Robert Eduard von, 

hell, concept of, 188. See also Chris- 

Herald of the Russian Student Chris- 
tian Movement (Yestnik Russkogo 
Khristianskogo Studencheskogo 
Dvizhenia ) (JRSKD). See Vestnik 

heresies. See religion 
Herzen, Alexander, 130, 136; quoted, 
205, 207, 2190.19 

history: Christianity and, 174, 185; 
destruction and rewriting of, 94, 96, 
127, 216, 222; and historical mem- 
ory, 211, 220, 222; influences on, 
2i5n.i5, 281, 282-284; Western, 
compared, 128 

Hitler, Adolf, and Hiderism, 5, 130 
Holy Family , The (Marx), 30, 55 
humanism, 198; Dostoyevsky on, 
202; and human rights, 200-201; 
rationalist, 199-202, 213. See also 
Huxley, Aldous, 57 

Ibo nation (Nigeria), 92 
idealism vs. positivism, 144-150, 189 
ideology, 186; and the Church, 180, 
185, 192; coexistence and, 9-14; 
nationalism as, 225-227; socialism 
as, see socialism 
Incas, empire of, 33-35* 45 
Index on Censorship , 80 
individuality: bureaucracy and, 44; 
“equality” and, 53-54; "I Myself’ 
and the Church, 158-161; vs. per- 
sonality, 208-^12; and property, 54, 
138 .See also nationalism; personal- 

“Industrial Party” trial, 240, 284 
industry: communes and, 82-83; 
computerization and automation 
in, 82, 84; conglomerates in, 69-70; 
as economic base, 67-69, 73, 
139-140. See also technology 
instinct, 64-66 



Intelligentsia: and culture, 19911.6, 

2i5n.i7, 255-^56, 258-259, 261; 
and Communism, 243-244; de- 
fined, 2i5n.i7, 234-236, 241-245, 
269; and democracies, 75; and 
elite, 273, 293; and family, 240, 
249; faults and virtues of, 230-233, 
237 - 239 , 253-255, 270; and free- 
dom, 79, 248, 255; “guilt” of, 260; 
Landmarks (yekhi ) and, vi, 155, 
2i4n.i4, 229-232, 234-237, 243; 
Lenin on, 238^9; and “the lie,” 
247-249, 253, 258-259, 268, 274- 
277; and materialism, 247; and 
nationalism, 98, 197-199, 261-264; 
vs. people, 214-217, 245-246, 260, 
264-266; polarization of, 236; 
prerevolutionary, vi-vii, 20-21, 
230-233, 241, 243, 247, 250, 260; 
and “progressive intellectuals,” 
255; and religion, 155-157, 177, 
192, 271; and repentance, 114, 232, 
244; and revolution, 236-239, 244; 
and sacrifice, 256, 272, 273, 
274-278, 287, 291; and samizdat, 
252-253 ( see also samizdat); “six 
temptations” of, 244; and “smatter- 
ers,” 242-259, 267-269, 273; state 
control and, 240-242, 243-244, 280; 
young, and Marxism, 239 
internationalism, 15, 91, 216, 262. See 
also foreign policy; nationalism 
Islam, 96 
Israel, 6, 262 
Istina (journal), 136 
Italy, 29, 75 

Ivan IV (the Terrible), tsar of Russia, 


Japan, “Red Army” in, 30-31 

Jesuits, 35, 45 

Jews, 197. See also Israel 

Job, story of, 162, 164 

John the Divine, St., 206 

justice, concept of, 280, 281 

Justinian I, Byzantine emperor, 178 

Kant, Immanuel, 630.13 
Karamazov, Ivan (Dostoyevsky 
character), 160, 162 
Karsavin, L., 2040.9 

KGB. See secret police 
Khlestakov (Gogol character), 156 
Khmelnitsky, Bogdan, 131 
Khomyakov, A. S.: quoted, 1960.2 
Khrushchev, Nikita, 49 
kibbutzim, 83. See also communes 
Kirghizians, 88 
Kistyakovsky, B. A., v 
Klyuchevsky, Vasily, 115 
Kollontai, Alexandra: “Relations be- 
tween the Sexes and Class Moral- 
ity,” quoted, 50 

Kolyma (labor camp), 146, 157, 162 
Komsomol (League of Young Com- 
munists), 123, 240 
Korea, 127 

Korolenko, V. G.: quoted, 21 
Korsakov, F. (biography), 296 
Krasnov-Levitin, Anatoly, 175, 203 
Kropotkin, Prince Peter, 83 
Kryukov, Fyodor, i26n.i2 

labor, forced, 48 

labor camps, nn.4, 44, i46n.i, 157, 
162 288n.6. See also slavery 
land. See property 
“Land and Liberty,” i36n.i6 
Land Code of 1922, 11 
Landmarks (Yekhi) (anthology). See 
Yekhi (Landmarks) 
language: history and, 96-97; nation- 
ality and, 262; Poland and, 130, 
133; “Russification” of, 94, 102, 
130; and “speaking in tongues,” 
209, 263 

Lao-Tse, philosophy of, 64 
Latvia, 95 

Latvian riflemen, 98, 126, 133, 263 
League of Nations, 132 
League of Young Communists. See 
Komsomol (League of Young 

Lenin, V. I., 980.4, 1330.15, 281; 
“deviation” from, 10-12; and 
Landmarks (Yekhi ), vi; quoted, 28, 
50-51, 198, 238; “Ten Theses Con- 
cerning Soviet Power,” 50; The 
Three Sources and Three Compo- 
nents of Marxism, 28 
Leontius of Byzantium, 209m 12 



Leontyev, Konstantin, 194, 227; 
quoted, 22 8 

Lermontov, M. Y., 2450.17 
Leskov, Nikolai: quoted, 163 
“lie, the,” participation in, 24-25; 
intelligentsia and, 247-249, 253, 
258-259, 268, 274^277 
literature, 115, 174, 288. See also 

Lithuania, 132, 133 
“Living Church” group, 2380.8 
living standard. See standard of living 
Lossky, N., 2040.9 
Lublin, Union of, 131 
Lubyanka prison, 157, 164 
Lukacs, G., 12 
Luther, Martin, 281 

Mably, Due de: Thoughts on the 
Condition of Nature , 42 
Magnitogorsk, 266 
Makary die Great, 170-171 
Maklakov, V. A., 103 
Mao Tse-tung, 64 
Marat, Jean Paul, 125 
Marcuse, Herbert: The End of 
Utopia , 66 

marriage, 38-41, 44, 57; Christianity 
and, 203; and divorce, 50, 515 Lenin 
on love and, 50-51; Marx on, 51; 
and ownership of women, 54. See 
also family 

Marx, Karl, 28, 201; on family and 
marriage, 49-52, 54-55; The Holy 
Family , 30, 54-55; Das Kapital , 
239; quoted, 29-30, 51, 54-55, 59> 

Marxism, 127, 218; as “anachronism,” 
81; and class hatred, 81, 215-216; 
and freedom, 136; intelligentsia 
(young) and, 239; myths of, 6^7; and 
religion, 29-30, 55; and “scientific 
socialism,” vi, 65-66, 221-222 
Mass, the. See Christianity 
masses. See intelligentsia; people, 

mass media, 149; advertising in, 68, 
86; censorship of, 80, 86; in democ- 
racies, 77; in totalitarian regimes, 

materialism, vi, 38-39, 59-80, 286; 

“smatterers” and, 246-247, 258 
Medvedev, Roy, 12, 197, 218 
Meslier: Testament, 42, 43 
Mesopotamia, 31-33, 45, 53 
“messianism,” Russian, 96, 121-127 
“Metanoia” (“NN”), 121 
MGB. See secret police 
Michelangelo, 189 
Michelet, Jules: quoted, 204-205 
migration. See population 
Milan, Edict of, 178 
militarism, 70, 74 

“militarization” of economy, 48, 
56-57. See also arms and arma- 

Milyukov, Pavel N.,2i4n.i4,223n.2i 
“moral heroism,” 14-15 
More, Thomas, 42; Utopia, 41 
Morelly, 43; The Law of Nature, 42 
Mumford, Lewis: The Myth of the 
Machine, 53 

Munich Agreement of 1938, 73 
Muntzer, Thomas, 4on.5 

nation, 163, 222; concept of, viii, 
205-208; as “corporate” personal- 
ity, 205-212, 225-227; defined, 204, 
205, 263; guilt and repentance of, 
see repentance, national; sym- 
pathies and antipathies of, 1 10-1 1 1. 
See also nationalism 
“National Bolshevism,” 120 
nationalism: and “denationaliza- 

tion,” 216, 217; and historical 
memory, 21 1 ; as ideology, 225-227; 
intelligentsia and, 98, 197-199, 
261-264; Lenin's dictum on, 198; 
and mutual enmity, 90, 100, 101; 
and national rebirth of Russia, 

196- 228, 263; personality and, 

197- 199, 203-212, 213-216, 225- 
227; and racial purity, 227; and reli- 
gion, 213, 228; Sakharov on, 15; 
and serfdom, 226; trend toward, 
100, 213; in USSR, 15-16, 88-104, 
196-228. See also colonialism; na- 

National Socialist party. See Nazi 

natural resources: consumption and 



waste of, 72-73, 108; and mining 
industry, 83; and pollution, 252, 

Nazi Germany, 51-52, 73-74, 75, 79 
Nechaev, Sergei: quoted, 60, 62 
Nestor the chronicler, 150 
Nevsky, Alexander, 267 
New Age, 22in.20 

New Bearings (Smena Vekh ) (publi- 
cation), 229 

New Economic Policy (NEP), 48 
Nicene Creed, 178 
Nicholas I, tsar of Russia, 15004 
Nietzsche, Friedrich W., 201, 214 
Nigeria, 90, 91, 134, 135 
nihilism: Dostoyevsky and, 56n.9; na- 
tional, Marxism and, 215-216; and 
Russian Nihilists, 98, 99, 157, 

Nikon, Patriarch, 116, 1740.2 
NKGB, NKVD. See secret police 
“NN,” 121; quoted, 122, 125, 126 
“Northeast.” See Russian Northeast 
Novocherkassk Polytechnic Institute, 

obrazovanshchina (“smatterers”). 
See “smatterers” 

obsolescence. See fashion and ob- 

October Revolution. See revolution 
Ogarev, Nikolai, 136 
Okhotny Ryad, 2isn.i6 
“Old Believers.” See Russian Or- 
thodox Church 

“Open Letter” to Patriarch Alexius 
(Eshilman and Yakunin), 175, 176 
Optyna, Fathers of, 157 
Orthodox Church. See Russian Or- 
thodox Church 
Orwell, George, 57, 248 
ownership. See property 

Pakistan, 135 
Palach, Jan, 276 
Paraguay, 35 
Paris, 43 

Paris Convention, 157 
parliamentary system. See parties, 

parties, political: elimination of, in 
future society, 85; and multiparty 
system, 18-19, 20, 22, 76; and re- 
pentance, 109; socialism and, 29 
Pascal, Blaise: quoted, 171 
Patarene movement, 37, 39, 64 
patriotism, 9, 120, 197, 262. See also 
Paul, Apostle, 169, 203 
Pavel, Father. See Florensky, Father 

peaceful coexistence, 9-14 
peasants. See people, die 
Peasants' War, 4on.5 
Pecherin (monk), 163m 16 
people, the: and attitude toward 
peasants, 261, 264; concept of (and 
class hatred), 215-216; intelligen- 
tsia vs., 214-217, 245-246, 260, 
264-266; and land, 21 (see also 
property); “nonexistence” of, 
264-269; and peasant uprisings, 11, 
4on.5, 123, 284 (see also revolu- 
tion); and progress, 221; and reli- 
gion, 260-261; and sacrifice, 
291-292. See also intelligentsia; 

People's Freedom party, 21 
“People's Will” (militant organiza- 
tion), 157 

personality: Christianity and, 203- 
212, 225; cult, 9; and freedom 
of choice, 224; as historical force, 
283; and human rights, 200-201; vs. 
individuality, 208-212 (see also in- 
dividuality); nation as “corporate,” 
205-212, 225-227; and national 
feeling, 197-199, 203-212, 213- 
216, 225-227; and rationalist hu- 
manism, 199-202, 213; Russian 
people as, 207, 228; science and, 
220-222; totalitarianism and, 201 
Peter I (the Great), tsar of Russia, 1 16, 
141, 165, 213 
“piecework,” 15 
Pilsudski, Joseph, 132 
Pimen, Patriarch, 175-176 
Pisarev, D. I., 156, 215 
Plato, 41, 46, 52, 293; Republic , 37, 
44n.6; and socialist system, 36, 37 
pochvenniki (“men of the soil”), 261 



Poland and Poles, 89; eastward ex- 
pansion of, 131-133; and religious 
persecution, 131, 133; Russian op- 
pression of, 129-130; and Union of 
Lublin, 131 

political parties. See parties, political 
Pomerants, G., 197, 248, 264, 272; 
quoted, 244-245, 247, 253, 259-263 
(passim), 270 

population: deportation and migra- 
tion, 94, 95, 206-207; explosion and 
birth control, 51-52, 141 ; urban, 84 
positivism, vi, 144-150, 189 
privilege, 6, 17-18 
productivity, 81-84 
progress, 218-219, 221, 293-294; 
freedom vs., 137-138; techno- 
logical, see technology 
“progressists,” i96n.2 
“progressive circles,” 215-216 
“progressive intellectuals,” 255 
“progressive philosophy,” 218 
propaganda, 7, 76, 179, 266, 283 
property: abolition of private, 28, 29, 
3i, 37-38, 43, 44, 53, 56; common 
ownership of, 39-42, 54; and de- 
struction of family, 45-48, 54-55 
( see also family); and individuality, 
54, 138; and peasant longing for 
land, 21 

punishment, slavery as, 42, 57 
purges, Stalinist, vii, 157m 12, *97» 

Pushkin, A. S., 156, 205,214,245^17, 
265; quoted, 144-145, 183 

Quiet Flows the Don (Sholokhov), 

“Red Army” (Trotskyist organization 
in Japan), 30-31 
Red Guards, 63 

“reformists,” 238. See also Russian 
Orthodox Church 

religion: in Albania, 29; Central 
Committee Resolution on, 180; 
Council for Religious Affairs, 175; 
destruction of, 31, 44, 49, 53, 55-58, 
57, 94, 116, 155, 222; and end of 
world, 63; and “God is dead,” 
289-290; and “godless five-year 

plan,” 49; heretical movements 
and, 36-41, 44n.6; Islam, 96; Marx 
and, 29-30, 55; nationalism and, 
213, 228; “Old Believers,” see Rus- 
sian Orthodox Church; as “opium 
of the people,” 179; peasants and, 
260-261, persecution of (Polish), 
131, 133, (Russian), 116; Plato and, 
44n.6; return to, 79, 153-181; and 
search for Truth, 166-171, 174, 1875 
socialist hatred of, 29, 37, 43, 58; 
Stalin and, 49; and “Third Rome,” 
124n.1i; Tolstoy and, 160-161; vs. 
totalitarianism, 79, 177-179. See 
also atheism; Christ; Christianity; 
Church, the 
Renaissance, the, 41 
repentance, national: Dostoyevsky 
on, 109; forgiveness and, 134; 
German, 91-92, H4; vs. infringe- 
ment of civil rights, 118-11904; 
intelligentsia and, 114, 232, 244; 
literature and, 115; necessity for, 
107-121, 128-135; Poland and, 
129-133; of political parties, 109; 
Russian “messianism” and, 
121-127; in USSR, 91, 96, 111, 
114-122, 128-133; for Western co- 
lonial policies, 111-112. See also 

responsibility: Christianity and, 185, 
213, 228; international, 6, 139-140; 
personal, 113, 224, 233. See also 

resurrection, concept of, 282, 294 
Resurrection of Christ, 183, 187 
Retif de la Bretonne, The Southern 
Discovery, 42 

revolution: and the Church, 238, 290; 
vs. “counterrevolution,” 13; fallacy 
of, 147; and intelligentsia, 236-239, 
244; international forces in, 
126-127; moral, 137; October Rev- 
olution, vi, 98n.3, n4, 123, 281, 
283; peasant uprisings, 11, 4on.5, 
123, 284; and “Russian pride,” 125; 
“Union of the Equal” and, 43“44; 
violence and, 81; Western fear of, 


rights: civil, 118-11904; human, 



Rublev, Andrei, 156, 174 
Russia: future of, 191, 279-294; and 
language, 94, 102, 130; national 
rebirth of, 196-228, 263; nostalgia 
for, 207; as personality, 207, 228; 
prerevolutionary, 1 15-1 16, 290 (see 
also intelligentsia); sufferings of, 
119, 162 (see also repentance, 
national). See also nationalism; 

Russian Empire, 91 
Russian “idea,” 120, 127 
Russian “messianism,” 96, 121-127 
“Russian Messianism” (Gorsky), 121 
Russian Northeast, 141-142, 272-273 
Russian Orthodox Church, 156; 
bureaucratism and, 173, 177; crisis 
in, 175, 181, 191; and ecumenism, 
159; and “Living Church” group, 
238n.8; “Old Believers” of, 116, 
136, 141, 1740.2; origin and de- 
velopment of, 174-175, 178; and 
Orthodox tradition, 91, 115, 125, 
159, 161, 178, 182, 184, 188, 192; 
revolution and, 238, 290; suppres- 
sion and survival of, 49, 96, 
165-166,216; young people in, 192. 
See also Christianity; Church, the; 

Russian Social Democratic party, vi, 
2 35 n -3 

Russian Student ^Christian Move- 
ment, 2on.5 

sacrifice: Christianity and, 176, 292; 
and freedom, 291, 293; intelligen- 
tsia and, 256, 272, 274-278, 287, 291 ; 
and sacrificial “elite,” 273, 293. See 
also repentance, national 
Saint-Simon, Claude de, 63; quoted, 

Sakharov, Andrei Dmitrievich, 197, 
217, 218, 251, 258, 295, 296; 
“Reflections on Progress, Peaceful 
Coexistence and Intellectual Free- 
dom,” discussed, 3-19 
salvation: Christian, 182, 187-188, 
191; of Russia, 215, 256 
samizdat , 89, 252-253, 285, 2930.7; 
defined, 3n.2 

Sargon I, king of Accad, 32 

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 217 
Schapiro, Leonard, vin. 1 
schools. See education 
science: and “antiscience,” 288-289; 
and atomic war, 7; and conscience, 
5; and new culture, 220-221, 
255-256; and personality, 220-222; 
“scientific socialism,” vi, 65-66, 

Scott, Sir Walter, 100 
secret police, 1570.12, 2a8n.8; Cheka 
(“Extraordinary Commission”), 
nn.3, 126, 133, 2370.7, 271, 288; 
GPU (“State Political Administra- 
tion”), 2370.7; KGB (“Committee 
for State Security”), 2380.7, 295; 
MGB (“Ministry of State Secur- 
ity”), 2 3 8n. 7 ; NKGB (“People's 
Commissariat for State Secur- 
ity”), 2 3 8n. 7 ; NKVD (“People's 
Commissariat for Internal Af- 
fairs”), 6, 2380.7, 288x1.5; OGPU 
(“United State Political Admin- 
istration'*), 2380.7 

self-condemnation (“Metanoia”), 121 
self-criticism, 9 
self-deception, 46 
self-discipline, 80, 85 
self-limitation, 107, 135-143. See a/so 
repentance, national 
self-preservation, 88, 232 
Serafim of Sarov, St., 157, 174 
Serbsky Institute, 258 
serfdom. See slavery 
Sergius of Radonezh, St, 157, 174 
sex distinction, 203 
sexual desires, 51, 77. 'See also mar- 

sexual revolution (destruction of 
family). See family 
Shafarevich, Igor (biography), 296 
Shakhty trial, 240 
Shevchenko, Taras, 101 
“Shigalyovism,” 53, 54 
Sholokhov, Mikhail: Quiet Flows the 
Don, i26n.i2 
Shostakovich, Dmitri, 251 
Siberia, 1 1, 129, 141. See also Russian 

Skobelev, Mikhail, 101 

slavery, 54; as punishment, 42, 57; 



slavery (cont) 

and serfdom, 116, 226. See also 
labor camps 

“smatterers”: intelligentsia and, 

242-259, 267-269, 273; and 

materialism, 246-247, 258 
Smena Vekh (flew Bearings ) (publi- 
cation), 229 

Social Democratic party: West Ger- 
man, 74; Russian, vi, 2350.3 
socialism: as basic force, 45, 218; vs. 
capitalism, 6-8, 29, 67-87; and 
death, 61-64; economic, 28-29; ex- 
perience and, 66 ; in history, 31-45; 
as ideology, 29-31, 46-47* 5*> 
65-66, 93, 97; and individuality, 
58-61; and internationalism, 91, 
283; Lenin on aim of, 198; and 
“moral heroism,” 14-15; and 
nationalism, 90-91* 93 * 97 ; opin- 
ions on origin of, 27-28; and 
“piecework,” 15; and “pseudo- 
socialism,” 15; and religion (see 
religion); “scientific,” vi, 65-66, 
221-222; and socialist “ideal,” 47, 
52-56, 2i5n.i7; and “socialist in- 
tegration,” 216; and “socialist 
novel,” 4H3; “theory” vs. “prac- 
tice,” 45-48; and violence, 81; 
world trend toward, 27-28 
Solovki (Solovetsky Islands), 11 
Solovyov, Vladimir,, 174, 
234; quoted, 210, 211 
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander, 189, 295, 
296 (biography); authorizes publi- 
cation of “The Quiet Don,” 
i26n.i2; imprisoned, 11; Lenten 
letter of, 175-176, 177; “Letter to 
the Soviet Leaders,” 196; Nobel 
Prize, quoted on, viii; and tradition 
in Russian thought, vii 
South Korea, 127 
Soviet Union. See Russia; USSR 
“speaking in tongues,” 209, 263 
Stalin, J. V. (“Uncle Joe”), 274, 284, 
288; The Economic Problems of 
Socialism , 48; and patriotism, 197; 
purges of, vii, I57n.i2, 197, 295; 
and religion, 49; and the terror, 115; 
and treatment of his own party, 


Stalinism, 5, 12, 18; as "deviation’* 
from Leninism, 10-12 
standard of living, 71, 94, 217, 224. 

See also economy 
Stepun, Fyodor, 120 
Storch, Niklas: quoted, 40-41 
Struve, Nikita, vi 
Struve, Peter, v, vi 
Suvorov, Alexander, 120 
“Sverdlovka,” 51 
Sweezy, Paul H., 70 
Symbolist movement, 1750.4 
Symeon, St: quoted, 183 

Taborites, 37, 40 
Taiwan, 134 
Talantov, Boris, 175 
Tambov, 11 

technology: automation and com- 
puterization in, 82, 84; “catching 
up” by USSR, 7, 99 * 140; of corpora- 
tions vs. military, 70; “progress” in, 
15-16, 84, 219; technocracy and, 
221. See also industry 
technostructures. See conglomerates 
Telegin, Semyon (pseudonym), 260, 
264; quoted, 254-259 (passim) 
Theodosius I (the Great), Roman em- 
peror, 178 

Third International, 124 
“Third Rome,” 124 
Third World (backward countries), 7, 

Tiam, Dudu: quoted, 28 
Tibetans, 88 

time-lag. See “catching up” 

Titian, 189 

Toffler, Alvin: Future Shock f 68 
Tolstoy, Leo,, 158, 161, 162, 
174, 189, 234; Confession , quoted, 

totalitarian society: “advantages” 
under, 77^79; and Church. 79, 
177-179; defects of, 79; vs. demo- 
cratic system, 80, 85 (see also dem- 
ocratic system); and human per- 
sonality, 201; and responsibility, 
113; West and, 73-75 
Toynbee, Arnold: An Historian* s Ap- 
proach to Religion , 52 


Trotsky, Leon: quoted, 48 
Trotskyist organization (“Red Army”) 
in Japan, 30-31 
Trubetskoy, N., 204n.g 
truth, and search for, 159, 166-171, 
174, 187, 230-231 

Tsetkin, Clara: On Lenin, quoted, 51 
Tsvetayeva, Marina, 207 
Tugan-Baranovsky, M. V.: quoted, 

Tupolevskaya Sharaga ( The Tupolev 
Laboratory) (publication), 24in.i4 
Turgenev, I. S.: quoted, 2140.14 
Turkey, Armenian massacres in, 111 

Uganda, 112 

Ukraine, 95, 97, 102; and “Borot- 
bists,” 98; Poland and, 132, 133 
Ukrainian Nationalist Union, 88 
Ulyanov, Alexander, 133 
unemployment, 71, 238 
Uniate church (Poland), 131 
“Union of die Equal, The” (Paris 
secret society), 43-44, 55 
United Nations, 98-99, 100, 103, 127, 

United States, 8, 73, 80, 92, 99, 112 
universalism, 203-204, 213, 223-227 
( passim ) 

Ur, Third Dynasty of, 32 
urban population and structure, 84 
USSR: authoritarian system in, 23-25, 
79 ^borders of, 127; and “catching 
up,” 3> 7> 99, 140; economy of, 95; 
fashion and obsolescence in, 
68-69; foreign policy of, 6, 7-9, 
139-142; and Germany, 74; inter- 
nal problems of (Sakharov on), 
8-11; and military production, 70; 
and nationalism, 15-16, 88-104, 
196-228; natural resources in, 
72-73, 83, 252, 266; Poland and, 
132-133; and Third World, 74. See 
also Russia 

utopianism, 41-42, 66, 202 

Vatican, the, 29. See also Christianity; 
Church, die 

Veche (Assembly) (journal), 101 

Vekhi (Landmarks ) (anthology), 
v-vii, 55n.8, 148, 160; and intel- 
ligentsia, vi, 155, 2i4n.i4, 229-232, 
234-237, 243 
Ventsov, L., 257 

Verkhovensky, Peter (Dostoyevsky 
character), 155 

Verras, 42; The History of the 
Savarambi, 41 
Versailles treaty, 132 
Vestnik RSKD (JRusskogo Khristian - 
skogo Studencheskogo Dvizhenia) 
(Herald of the Russian Student 
Christian Movement), 95-96, 121, 
203, 242-243, 249, 257, 260 
Vietnam and Vietnam war, 13, 92, 127 
village: decline of, 97; “state,” 100 
violence, 81, 290 

Vipper, R. Y.: An Outline of the His- 
tory of Socialism in Most Recent 
Times, quoted, 45 

Volfson, S. Y., 49; The Sociology of 
Marriage and the Family, quoted, 
50, 51 

Voloshin, Maximilian: quoted, 141 

“war” communism, 47-48. See also 

West: Communist parties in, 12, 127; 
competition with, 71; fear of rev- 
olution in, 71; guilt of, 111-112 
(see also repentance, national); his- 
tory of, 128; multiparty system in, 
18-19, 22; and natural resources, 
72; and search for solutions, 150; 
and totalitarian society, 73-75; 
USSR imitation of, 7, 20, 140, 150. 
See also democratic system; indi- 
vidual countries 
“Westemizers,” 245^17 
White Sea-Baltic Canal, 288 
wife-sharing. See family 
Winstanley, Gerraid, 42, 43; The Law 
of Freedom in a Platform, 41 
Witvogel, K., 74 

Wladyslaw IV, king of Poland, 131 
women: “first duty of,” 50; and labor, 
14, 140; as social property, 54. See 
also family; marriage 
Writers' Union, 25in.i8 



Yakunin, Gleb, 175 
Yezhov, Nikolai I., 288 
Yugoslavia, 134 

Zamyatin, Evgeny, 5 7 
Zernov, N., 234n.2 

Zheludkov, Father Sergei, 176, 177 
Zossima, Father (Dostoyevsky 
“Zwickau prophets,” 40 
Zygmunt (Sigismund) III, king of Po- 
land and Sweden, 131 


From Under the Rubble 


Alexander Solzhenitsyn and six dissident col- 
leagues joined in the mid-seventies to write this 
book, which surely remains the most extraor- 
dinary debate of a nation’s future published in 
modern times. Shattering a half-century of 
silence, From Under the Rubble constitutes a 
devastating attack on the Soviet regime, a moral 
indictment of the liberal West, and a Christian 
manifesto calling for a new society— one whose 
dominant values would be spiritual rather than 
economic. Personally edited by the Nobel Prize- 
winning author, fired by his own substantial 
contributions, From Under the Rubble articulates 
Solzhenitsyn’s most fervent call to action. His 
daring, and the remarkable courage of his col- 
leagues, is testament to the seriousness of their 
demand for a revolution in which one does not 
kill one’s enemeies, but in which “one puts 
oneself in danger for the sake of the nation.” 

Also available from Gateway Editions: 


Translated and Edited by Phyllis Penn Kohler 

by Father Jerzy Popieluszko, 

Translated by Father Michael J. Wrenn 


is an imprint of 
Regnery Gateway, Inc. 
1130 17th Street NW 
Washington, DC 20036 

ISBN 0-89526-890-6